Black Swan Classic Jazz Band • Ragtime Revelry – The Syncopated Times

When “ragtime” is mentioned, many people – perhaps most – immediately think of pianists. In the early 1900s, ragtime was the domain of pianists. Ragtime was ‘revived’, you might say, in 1974 when the movie The bite came out with his captivating background music: the ragtime track “The Entertainer”. Thereafter, and even today, whenever The artistWas and is played, more often than not it is identified as “The Sting”. Today there are a lot of players like Butch Thompson and Terry Waldo who include ragtime in their repertoire, as well as some who devote themselves entirely to ragtime.

Music was first promulgated by pianists, mainly men such as Scott Joplin and Tony Jackson, but also women like May Aufderheide, who both composed and performed it. However, it was not limited to solo pianists; musical groups, such as James Reese Europe’s 369th regiment the army orchestra and other musical groups like WC Handy have included it in their repertoire. These arrangements have often been given a second life by being adopted by modern ragtime ensembles, such as the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra or the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra..

Ragtime has also been picked up by traditional jazz groups, many of which include one or two ragtime numbers in their repertoire. Few, however, feature a full ragtime set or a full recording of ragtime tracks. Two ragtime albums have long been among my favorites: Elite syncope, by the group Chris Barber, and The many faces of ragtime, by the Turk Murphy Group. Joining those who have released a ragtime album is the Black Swan Classic Jazz Band with this album, Ragtime Revelry.

Most tracks should have some degree of familiarity for the listener, whether it’s the title of the melody or the name of the composer. The first track, “Weatherbird Rag”, will most likely recall the famous composer, a certain Louis Armstrong, and possibly his 1928 duet on the piece with Earl Hines. However, the tune was first recorded by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in 1923 with Armstrong playing the second cornet. On this CD, the melody is arranged by the frontman of the group Kit Johnson, like several others.

Ragtime doesn’t offer many opportunities to improvise, and notation is paramount, as this one proves. In this arrangement, Johnson’s handling of the intricacies that go into a ragtime composition is safe. Here and everywhere, Ernie Carbajal avoids vibrato, giving the horn a flat and somewhat plaintive quality, which sounds very appropriate. Ragtime, for me, speaks of a bygone time, whether it is played at medium tempo (like here), up tempo (“Dill Pickles”), or slow tempo (“Solace” or “Bethena”, the two waltzes, the latter being a superb creation).

Another surprise could be the many voices. Few ragtime pieces played by a solo piano, orchestra, or jazz band contain lyrics. On this record, a number, four by Marilyn Keller and a couple by Alan Phillips. Some of them, such as “Dill Pickles” by Keller and “Barnyard Rag” by Phillips, require a quick tongue. Every singer is up to the task, doesn’t stumble or twist their tongue, and the vocals add another dimension to the ragtime experience.

The album also features pianist John Bennett with minimal rhythm: tuba and drums on “Maple Leaf Rag”, washboard on “Black and White Rag”, drums on “La Comparsa” and “The Mule Walk”. Bennett also shows off his considerable arranging prowess. All but one of the numbers not organized by Johnson are Bennett’s.

This CD will appeal to anyone who enjoys ragtime and / or traditional jazz. Although it was recorded a few years ago, it is still available. TO https://blackswanclassicjazzband.hearnow.com/ragtime-revelry we can find details of the order.


BLACK SWAN CLASSIC JAZZ BAND • Ragtime Revelry • Own label (no number) Total time: 65m. 30s.

Meteorological bird cloth; The ragtime dance *; Maple leaf cloth; Chiffon of Saint-Louis; Creole Belle (s) †; Chrysanthemum; Mississippi rag; The Junk Man Rag *; Solace (A Mexican Serenade) ‡; Black and White Cloth °; Red rose cloth *; The Chevrolet Chase; La Comparsa (Carnival parade); Farmyard rag; Wild cherries; Bethene; dill pickles *; The mules walk

Recording data: all tracks recorded in 2003

John Bennett, piano; Marilyn Keller, vocals *; Ernie Carbajal, trumpet; Steve Matthes, clarinet; Lew Chapman, trombone; Ron Leach, drums; Kit Johnson, tuba; Alan Phillips, banjo, bouzouki ‡, vocal †; Glenn “Pappy” Koch, washboard °

Black Swan Classic Jazz Band • Ragtime Revelry

Born in Dundee, Scotland, Bert Thompson arrived in the United States in 1956. After spending two years playing drums with the 101st Airborne Division Band and performing a number of airdrops, he returned to the United States. civilian life in San Francisco, enrolling at San Francisco State University, where he obtained a BA and an MA. He then enrolled at the University of Oregon, where he earned a DA and Ph.D., all degrees in English. Now retired, he is Professor Emeritus of English at City College in San Francisco. He is also a retired traditional jazz drummer, having performed with a number of San Francisco Bay Area bands including And That’s Jazz, Professor Plum’s Jazz, the Jelly Roll Jazz Band, Mission Gold Jazz Band and the Zenith New Orleans Parade group; he has also performed with others including Gremoli (Long Beach, CA) and the Phoenix Jazzers (Vancouver, BC). Today he reviews traditional jazz CDs and writes occasional articles for several publications.


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Henry R. Wright