“Get up from that piano. You hurtin’ its feelings.”
If you are hearing these words while you are playing the piano, chances are you’re not playing well.
It’s very unlikely, however, that you are in front of who used to say these words at the beginning of the twentieth century: Jelly Roll Morton.
Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton was a pianist and composer known for his arrogance and self-promotion. Involved in compositions of ragtime (and beyond), claimed to have invented jazz in 1902 and ran a nightclub in which he was pianist, cashier and manager at the same time.
We can find his character in the movie “The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean” by Giuseppe Tornatore, a film based on the theatrical monologue “Novecento” by Alessandro Baricco, both (movie and book) I would recommend you.
In the film, Jelly Roll challenges the main character in an epic piano competition. The second piece of this challenge is “The Crave”, a song actually written by Morton that made sensation in Hollywood in 1917.
Despite his incredible lack of modesty, we must recognize in Morton a songwriting talent out of the ordinary. ”The Crave” is a song I’ve always loved, and that is why I propose you my own version.
While the right hand performs the melody, the left supports it with a tango habanera rhythm. The performance ends with a variation I have written where ninth and thirteenth extensions make the song more “modern”.
I do not know why but every time I re-listen to myself, I think that if we were here, Jelly Roll would shake his head and would say: “Get up from that piano. You hurtin’ its feelings.”
“Suonavamo per farli ballare, perchè se balli non puoi morire, e ti senti Dio.
E suonavamo il ragtime, perchè è la musica su cui Dio balla, quando nessuno lo vede.
Su cui Dio ballava, se solo era negro” – Alessandro Baricco, Novecento