Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe (October 20, 1890 – July 10, 1941), known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer who started his career in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Widely recognized as a pivotal figure in early jazz, Morton is perhaps most notable as jazz's first arranger, proving that a genre rooted in improvisation could retain its essential spirit and characteristics when notated. His composition "Jelly Roll Blues", published in 1915, was the first published jazz composition. Morton also wrote the standards "King Porter Stomp", "Wolverine Blues", "Black Bottom Stomp", and "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say", the last a tribute to New Orleans musicians from the turn of the 20th century.
Morton's claim to have invented jazz in 1902 aroused resentment. The jazz historian, musician, and composer Gunther Schuller says of Morton's "hyperbolic assertions" that there is "no proof to the contrary" and that Morton's "considerable accomplishments in themselves provide reasonable substantiation". Alan Lomax, who recorded extensive biographical interviews of Morton at the Library of Congress in 1938, did not agree that Morton was an egoist:
In being called a supreme egotist, Jelly Roll was often a victim of loose and lurid reporting. If we read the words that he himself wrote, we learn that he almost had an inferiority complex and said that he created his own style of jazz piano because "All my fellow musicians were much faster in manipulations, I thought than I, and I did not feel as though I was in their class." So he used a slower tempo to permit flexibility through the use of more notes, a pinch of Spanish to give a number of right seasoning, the avoidance of playing triple forte continuously, and many other points". --Quoted in John Szwed, Dr Jazz.