×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Great Performances Jammin’: Jelly Roll Morton on Broadway

Narrator: Denzel Washington.

Narrator: Denzel Washington.

Jammin’: Jelly Roll Morton on Broadway” succinctly answers the first of Goethe’s three questions of artistic criticism: What was the artist trying to do? Producers Tom Bywaters and Nell Cox have provided director/author George C. Wolfe with the ideal vehicle from which he, along with various cast members, Luther Henderson (musical adaptations) and Susan Birkenhead (lyrics), clarifies just what the Tony Award-winning hit was about.

The PBS show blends “Jelly’s Last Jam” interviews with photos from Morton’s past, tied together by Denzel Washington’s narration and excerpts of recorded reflections by Morton himself.

These segments, coupled with Wolfe’s impassioned interjections, reveal Morton as a Creole racist who, because of boyhood indoctrinations by his family, was never able to see himself as black.

Ultimately, this closemindedness hampered the development of “his jazz.” The dramatic tension builds until, unable to continue drowning in denial, Morton faced all the parts of his black past–most of which he used for musical purposes.

Based on interviews here, the communication mode of the engrossing Wolfe seems to be high energy. The hour spec’s seamless shifts from Broadway to the past are fluid, making the bridges between the two clearly defined. The primary criticism is that a little more background information and a little less Wolfe would have supplied more meat for the concept.

The documentary definitely bears notice as it provides sharp insights into the torn soul of one of America’s great musicians while at the same time serving as road map into Wolfe’s creative genius from concept to production.

Great Performances Jammin': Jelly Roll Morton on Broadway

(Mon. (2), 9-10 p.m., PBS)

Production: A Luckyhitz production in association with Thirteen/WNET in New York and TV Asahi. Executive producer, Margo Lion; producers, Tom Bywaters, Nell Cox; coordinating producer, Marc Bauman.

Crew: Editor, Jeffrey Friedman; Writer, Bywaters; principal photography, Albert Maysles, Greg Andracke.

Cast: With: Gregory Hines, George C. Wolfe, Susan Birkenhead, Luther Henderson, Keith David, Stanley Wayne Mathis, Tonya Pinkins.

More TV

  • Khloe KardashianKhloe Kardashian, Emma Grede and

    Khloé Kardashian Could Be Next 'Bachelorette,' Says Show Creator Mike Fleiss

    The time has come to choose a new Bachelorette, and “The Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss has hinted that Khloe Kardashian may be in the mix. “I have already been in contact with my dear friend @KrisJenner about @khloekardashian as #TheBachelorette,” he tweeted Friday, after tweeting Thursday that “any decision regarding @khloekardashian as the new #TheBachelorette [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Whiskey Tango Cavalier

    TV Review: 'Whiskey Cavalier'

    The crux of “Whiskey Cavalier” can be found right in its protagonist’s name. “Will Chase” is a purposefully ridiculous wink of a name that tries to be both debonair and very silly all at once, just like the FBI agent (played by Scott Foley) to which it belongs. This isn’t a regular spy drama, “Whiskey [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Malik Yoba to Reprise Role in 'New York Undercover' Reboot at ABC

    Malik Yoba, who starred as Detective J.C. Williams in the 90s show “New York Undercover,” is set to reprise the role in the ABC reboot, sources tell Variety. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original series, “New York Undercover” will follow detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz as they investigate the city’s [...]

  • Chris Burrous dead KTLA anchor

    KTLA Anchor Chris Burrous' Cause of Death Released

    An investigative report on KTLA anchor Chris Burrous has determined that his cause of death was attributed to methamphetamine toxicity, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Burrous, 43, was found unconscious at a motel in Glendale, Calif on December 27, and later died at the hospital. The death has been ruled as accidental. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content