Thursday, June 20, 2013

Maple Leaf Rag


Earlier in the week I was reading about the early history of jazz. Ragtime was the subject and Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" was the given example. This led me to listening to the few versions that I have.

First up was "King of Ragtime Writers: from classic piano rolls." Nice hearing it in a very straight forward way even if it was a bit stiff and lacking the human touch.

Following that was Alan Lomax's 1938 recording of Jelly Roll Morton demonstrating how he would take a tune and make it his own - "In my estimation there's a vast difference." This is available of the Library of Congress Recordings - Fascinating stuff, I urge you to check it out (have a bit of time on your hands it's 8 CDs). It's a shame there aren't more recordings of the masters talking about and demonstrating their music.

Up next was Ran Blake exploring "Maple Leaf Rag" over four takes from his solo piano albums Painted Rhythms Vol. 1 & 2. (GM Recordings 1985). Just as Morton made it his own, so too does Blake - tempo shifts, sparse and light, dense and dramatic. He shows there's plenty of mileage left for improvisers to explore on the old classics.

Then I leapt back to 1932 with the New Orleans FeetwarmersSidney Bechet (soprano sax) Henry Duncan (p) Tommy Ladnier (trpt) Tommy Nixon (trb) Ernest Meyers (b/vocal) Morris Morland (d) ). Bechet really wails here (his reed almost explodes around 2 min 30 mark) and the band steams along.  This recording has a great atmosphere (shouts of encouragement during the piano feature add to it). Note to self: More Sidney Bechet.


And that exhausted my collection. Perhaps I'll jump on Spotify and look for some more.

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