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PHOTOS: A Look at Jelly’s Last Jam (Theater Latté Da)

Andre Shoals as the Chimney Man in the Theater Latté Da production of Jelly’s Last Jam. Photo by Dan Norman.

“Jelly Roll” may seem an odd nickname for a musician. At the start of the 20th century, the term certainly referred to the familiar dessert – but in African-American slang of the period, it also referred to female genitalia. These were just a couple of the associations with “Jelly Roll” Morton (1890-1941), one of the most influential and dynamic jazz musicians of all time. The musical Jelly’s Last Jam – opening tonight at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis – tells part of this fascinating and musically thrilling story.

Jelly Roll Morton’s dynamic playing, band directing, and recording artist popularity did much to bring jazz to the American and global mainstream. With a real-life story that included being disowned for his jazz-making and a conflicted multiracial identity, his life is seemingly tailor-made for dramatization. Theater Latté Da’s production of one of these – Jelly’s Last Jam – opened in Minneapolis last night. Here’s a glimpse of the show:

Julius Collins (center) as Buddy Bolden, with the cast of Theater Latté Da’s production of Jelly’s Last Jam. The real-life Buddy Bolden was one of the most influential figures in the New Orleans sound in the first decade of the 20th century, blending blues and ragtime. Photo by Dan Norman.
Jordan Leggett (center) plays Young Jelly. Photo by Dan Norman.
Flashy production numbers fill the show, with direction and choreography by Kelli Foster Warder. Photo by Dan Norman.

Jelly’s Last Jam plays through May 8 at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis.

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