Jelly Roll Pete - mystery pianist

A couple of years ago, a kind US jazz collector sent me a copy of a promo CD by a pianist called Jelly Roll Pete on a label called Hilarity. Reportedly, this promo CD was originally acquired at a ragtime festival in the mid-80s and the disc was never released (it was going to be issued as Hilarity cd#001). The artwork included no information except for the name of the pianist, label and track list.

This obscure disc seems to have been an unsolved mystery for years. On the suspicion that the pianist may be using a pseudonym, the disc has been sent to a number of classical jazz and ragtime pianists – among them Butch Thompson – but unfortunately nobody in the old-style jazz piano circles has been able to recognize who’s playing.

Unquestionably, he/she is a very accomplished player in a very convincing Jelly Roll Morton style. The disc contains a bunch of Jelly Roll Morton tunes ("Finger Buster / The Finger Breaker" and "Jelly Roll Blues" among others), a few ragtime numbers, a couple of blues, a very interesting version of Gershwin's "'S Wonderful" and three tracks that I had never heard of and that may be originals ("Margie Martin's Blues", "Nancy's Joys" and "Katrina's Wiggle").

If anybody reading this blog has ever listened to or heard about this disc…

…or has any piece of information on such a "Jelly Roll Pete" pianist…

…or has any reference of a “Hilarity” label…

…Please help me solve this mystery!


Hace un par de años, un amable coleccionista norteamericano me mandó una copia de un CD promocional grabado por un pianista que se hacía llamar Jelly Roll Pete, editado en un desconocido sello de nombre Hilarity. Según me contó, esta copia promocional había sido adquirida en un festival de ragtime sobre el año 1985. El CD finalmente no llegó a editarse (el número de catálogo preasignado era Hilarity CD#001). El libreto no incluía ninguna información adicional, sólo el nombre del pianista, el sello y el listado de temas.

Este oscuro disco ha sido un misterio irresoluble durante muchos años. Con la sospecha de que el pianista podía ser alguien conocido que estaba utilizando un seudónimo, se envió el disco a unos cuántos pianistas de jazz clásico y ragtime (entre ellos el gran Butch Thompson) para ver si podían identificarlo, pero por desgracia hasta la fecha nadie ha sido capaz de hacerlo.

Sin duda, se trata de un magnífico pianista, capaz de tocar en el estilo de Jelly Roll Morton de forma muy convincente. El disco incluye un puñado de temas de Jerry Roll Morton (entre ellos “Finger Buster / The Finger Breaker” y “Jelly Roll Blues”), unos cuántos rags, un par de blues, una interesante versión de “’S Wonderful” de Gershwin y tres temas que al menos el que suscribe nunca había oído ni siquiera mencionar y que podrían ser composiciones propias (“Margie Martin’s Blues”, “Nancy’s Joys” y “Katrina’s Wiggle”).

Si alguien que esté leyendo este blog ha escuchado este disco o ha oído mencionar algo sobre él, sobre el misterioso pianista o sobre un sello llamado “Hilarity”…

¡…Quizás pueda ayudar a resolver este misterio!

4 comentarios:

  1. Would it be possible for you to post an audio track from the CD? (I don't know how to do this on my blog, so I wouldn't reproach you if you couldn't.) Maybe our ears could tell us who the pianist is or was? But the mere mystery is a lesson in itself: there are always deserving players, wherever we are, who never get CD contracts or high-paying gigs.

    Cheers -- and keep up the good work! Michael Steinman (www.jazzlives.wordpress.com)

  2. Michael:

    Just sent you links to five tracks from this disc.


  3. Hi Agustín,

    Last August (2008), Max Keenlyside discovered who "Jelly Roll Pete" is. He is a gentleman by the name of Peter Fahrenholtz, who lives in Denmark. Here's the thread on the Yahoo group "Elite Syncopations" regarding this discovery (scroll down to the bottom for all replies to this topic):


    And here's Peter's Youtube page, where you can see and hear him play lots of Jelly Roll Morton stuff:


    Finally, I highly recommend you join the EliteSyncopations group, if you are interested in ragtime, and early popular and jazz piano styles, at all. They always have interesting discussions, discoveries, and neat stuff (recordings and sheet music) posted in the "files" section:


    Andrew Barrett
    (who is also a member of the StridePiano group)

  4. Thanks a lot, Andrew. Great to know that the identity of the misterious piano player was discovered more than a year ago. Just joined the EliteSyncopations group. Very interesting discussion there!

    Best regards,
    Agustín Pérez