Click to enlarge photograph

Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans Jazzmen
at the RCA Manufacturing Company, Inc., studio #3 in New York, N.Y.
28th September 1939

This photograph was taken on the day of Morton’s second Bluebird recording session in 1939. Otto F. Hess took the photograph while visitor Harry Lim (centre) looked on.

When I visited my friend Han Enderman, I noticed a book on his shelf, which was unknown to me. The book, Is This To Be My Souvenir? by Frank Büchmann-Möller, was published in 2000 by Odense University Press. It is based on the Timme Rosenkrantz Collection of jazz photographs, which exceeds more than 2000. These photographs are now in the Music Dept. of the University Of Southern Denmark in Odense. [23]

I checked to see if there was anything in the book about Morton, and to my surprise I found the above picture on page 135. It shows left to right: Albert Nicholas, the left shoulder of an unknown musician (possibly trumpet player Sidney de Paris), Harry Lim, Happy Caldwell and another unknown musician who could be drummer Zutty Singleton or guitar player Lawrence Lucie. Jelly Roll Morton was probably sitting at the grand piano, which stands at the right of the photograph.

The caption says that the photograph was taken at the RCA session of 14th September 1939 and is credited to Otto Hess. Harry Lim was a Dutchman from Java, the main island of the then Dutch East Indies. He collected jazz records before he travelled to the Netherlands in the late 1930s. He left for New York just before the war broke out. In 1939 he had just arrived in the USA. He is known to have been present at the second Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans Jazzmen session, but not on the first one. I had the opportunity to ask Harry about his meeting with Jelly Roll at the time of the recording, and he said that it was just a promotional affair. So I have a feeling that this newly-found Hess photograph was not taken on 14th September, but on 28th September 1939. The Otto Hess collection now resides in the New York Public Library.

After this photograph turned up an earlier publication of this photograph was found in the Jazz Journal magazine, dated May 1962, Vol. 15, No. 5, page 11. Although a large part on the left side of the original photograph is cut off in that 1962 print, it does show a little more on the right side, and displays the lid of the grand piano where Jelly Roll was sitting. Using his PC, Dutch graphic designer Peter Rijkhoff has skilfully merged the two photographs together.

Not shown in Mr. Jelly Lord (1980) by Laurie Wright, or Oh, Mister Jelly (1999) edited by William Russell.

courtesy of Ate van Delden

© 2009 Ate van Delden Collection

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