Ferdinand “Jelly Roll Morton” claimed to be the inventor of jazz. While this claim may be disputed, most musicologists agree that King Porter Stomp is an influential “pivot” piece that begins to bridge the gap between novelty ragtime and swing. While its form is classic old-school ragtime, the chord progressions and melodies were innovative; including a “blues” third in the final motive rarely found in ragtime music.
The piece took a while to find its place. Morton says that he wrote it in 1905 (and named it for a Florida pianist) and only chose to have it published in 1923. Before that time, he would save the piece and use it as ammunition in “piano battles.” After it was published, Fletcher Henderson and other bandleaders performed stock band arrangements of the piece. Louis Armstrong may have performed in Henderson’s recording. That recording was an influence on young bandleader Benny Goodman, whose recording of the piece helped usher in the Big Band era and the domination of Swing music as America’s popular music for the next 25 years.
This arrangement uses swing rhythm instead of the dotted-eighth-sixteenth patterns. It is faithful to the original (transposed to G from the original Ab), but is at least two levels easier, making this iconic piece accessible to more students.
Key: G major
Mood: grooving, swinging, punchy
Pedagogy: cut time, staccato, syncopation, dynamics, 1st and 2nd endings, swing rhythm.