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James Dapogny, Who Resurrected Jazz of the Past, Dies at 78 – The New York Times

James Dapogny, Who Resurrected Jazz of the Past, Dies at 78 - The New York Times
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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/19/obituaries/james-dapogny-dead.html
 
James Dapogny, Who Resurrected Jazz of the Past, Dies at 78
March 19, 2019
James Dapogny in an undated photograph. He applied his vast knowledge of music to transcribing early jazz works, notably the music of Jelly Roll Morton, widely regarded as the first great jazz composer.University of Michigan

James Dapogny in an undated photograph. He applied his vast knowledge of music to transcribing early jazz works, notably the music of Jelly Roll Morton, widely regarded as the first great jazz composer.University of Michigan
James Dapogny, a jazz pianist, bandleader and musicologist who was instrumental in solidifying Jelly Roll Morton’s place in the jazz pantheon, died on March 6 in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 78.
His wife, Gail Johnson Dapogny, said the cause was colon cancer.
Professor Dapogny (dah-POG-nee) taught music at the University of Michigan for decades but also found time for frequent performances, leading James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band (“his pride and joy,” his wife said) and other groups as well as playing and recording as a solo artist.
He applied his vast knowledge of music to transcribing early jazz works from recordings, most notably in his 1982 book “Ferdinand ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton: The Collected Piano Music,” which helped fuel a rediscovery of Morton (1890-1941), who had fallen out of favor but is now widely regarded as the first great jazz composer.
Professor Dapogny further cemented Morton’s legacy by overseeing “Jelly Roll Morton, the Library of Congress Recordings, Volumes 1-4,” a landmark compilation of 1938 material that was released by Rounder Records in 1994. “The reissue of this body of music is undeniably a major event,” Tom Piazza wrote in a review in The New York Times.
Professor Dapogny’s edition of the collected piano music reflected its complexity far more than the published sheet music versions, William Bolcom, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and a colleague at the University of Michigan, said by email.
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“Just as important,” he said, “Jim could swing in performance, with a quiet demeanor and deadpan humor, in person, in recordings and on stage.”
Morton was only one of Professor Dapogny’s interests. He also resurrected a blues opera by the poet Langston Hughes and the jazz pianist and composer James P. Johnson called “De Organizer,” which had been performed at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1940, then became a longstanding musical mystery. Although Hughes’s lyrics were preserved, Johnson’s score went missing; Professor Dapogny was one of a number of scholars who searched for years with no luck.
Professor Dapogny joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1966 on a one-year appointment and ended up staying for more than 40 years.University of Michigan

Professor Dapogny joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1966 on a one-year appointment and ended up staying for more than 40 years.University of Michigan
“I called people who knew the whole story,” he told the University of Michigan’s news service in 2002, “and I heard the same message over and over: ‘Forget about it. Everyone’s looked for it. It’s gone.’ ”
Then, in 1997, he was taking in an exhibition on Eva Jessye, a choral director whose credits included the original production of “Porgy and Bess” and whose papers had been donated to the university. In a display case, he saw a notebook with “De Organizer — Property of Eva Jessye” written on the cover.
“I went weak in the knees,” Professor Dapogny told The New York Times in 2002. “This was something that truly seemed to have disappeared.”
The notebook contained most of the music. Professor Dapogny filled in about 80 missing measures himself. In 2002 the opera, about a labor organizer who inspires sharecroppers in the South, was reborn with performances in Detroit and Ann Arbor. Professor Dapogny played piano in the orchestra.
In 2006 he presented “De Organizer” again in Ann Arbor, this time paired with another lost work that he had reconstructed, “The Dreamy Kid,” composed by Johnson and with a libretto by Eugene O’Neill.
“The Johnson opera restorations were a huge challenge, and an opportunity to work with the material of one of his heroes,” Christopher Smith, a sousaphonist and trombonist who played with Professor Dapogny in the band Phil Ogilvie’s Rhythm Kings, said by email. “There was no one better qualified to do that work, and he delivered brilliantly.”
James Elliot Dapogny was born on Sept. 3, 1940, in Berwyn, Ill. His father, Irving, was a manager at a printing press company, and his mother, Evelyn (Neumeister) Dapogny, was a homemaker.
James grew up in Downers Grove, a Chicago suburb, and as a teenager would go to the city to listen to jazz. He was playing in groups as well, including the Stompers, where his fellow members included the clarinetist Kim Cusack, who lived in a nearby town.
Professor Dapogny recognized Jelly Roll Morton, pictured here, as a remarkable multidimensional artist. Morton’s music, he once said, “was not like anything any of his forerunners wrote because it has a depth of thought that doesn’t exist in earlier jazz or ragtime.”Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Professor Dapogny recognized Jelly Roll Morton, pictured here, as a remarkable multidimensional artist. Morton’s music, he once said, “was not like anything any of his forerunners wrote because it has a depth of thought that doesn’t exist in earlier jazz or ragtime.”Hulton Archive/Getty Images
“We would go over to his house, and — it was not exactly a front porch, it was like a room, like a foyer, where the family piano was,” Mr. Cusack recalled in a video interview on the Jazz Lives blog. “Jim was always there, and he was always at that piano. You could rest assured that just about every time we went to his house, that’s as far as we got.”
Professor Dapogny received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in composition at the University of Illinois and, in 1971, earned a doctorate there as well. By then he was already teaching at the University of Michigan, having arrived there in 1966 on a one-year appointment that lasted more than 40 years. He took emeritus status upon his retirement in 2006.
Professor Dapogny was captivated by early jazz.
“He’s said that the energy of prewar jazz was always appealing to him,” Mr. Smith said. “That and the compositional interest of multi-strain works which also afforded improvisation.”
In the early 1980s Professor Dapogny had a chance to serve as accompanist to someone who was part of the 1920s jazz scene: the singer Sippie Wallace. He performed with her at the Bottom Line in New York and other nightclubs when she was in her 80s. His Chicago Jazz Band backed her on her 1982 album, “Sippie.”
That band also released a number of its own albums, including, in 1993, “Original Jelly Roll Blues,” which applied Professor Dapogny’s knowledge of Morton and his style to compositions by Morton and others. He recognized Morton as a remarkable multidimensional artist, as he explained in a 2000 interview with The Times.
“If you only heard the piano solos he recorded in 1923 and ’24, you’d say he was doing stuff nobody else was doing,” he said. “If you only saw his music on paper, you’d say it was not like anything any of his forerunners wrote because it has a depth of thought that doesn’t exist in earlier jazz or ragtime. If you only heard his band music, you get this sense of how perfectly he used an ensemble. And if you only hear the Library of Congress sides, you see what a fabulous improviser this guy was.”
Professor Dapogny’s first marriage, to Ellen Bunning, ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1965, he is survived by two brothers, David and Douglas.
For someone who was constantly onstage, Professor Dapogny was surprisingly low key, Mr. Smith said.
“I’m sure many of his university colleagues had no idea of his accomplishments in the jazz world, and vice versa,” he said. “When introducing him on gigs, I would sometimes joke (in a booming voice) that he was ‘the most subtle man of all time!’
“I have long felt that Jim was underappreciated because of his subtlety, but it didn’t seem to bother him one bit — he just kept on cranking out magnificent work.”
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