Scott Joplin began writing "rags" in the late 1890s, and would later be known as -- thanks to compositions like "Maple Leaf Rag" -- the King of the Ragtime Writers. Like other writers of ragtime, his music featured heavily syncopated rhythms, often designed for a solo piano. Unlike the other writers, Joplin's ambition led him to compose rags that were more complex than the average player piano product. "Cascades" darts this way and that, never settling into a predictable pattern, while "Search-Light Rag" sweeps gracefully across open expanses. There are also fascinating oddities like "Rag Medley No. 6: Pineapple Rag/Euphonic Sounds" that hint at Joplin's reach toward classical strains. "Something Doing" suggests that even the greatest writers eventually ran out of titles for their creations. These pieces have been taken from piano rolls and reveal that ragtime wasn't necessarily played at breakneck speed. Many of Joplin's compositions, in fact, came with the instructions "Do not play fast." The collection comes to a fitting close with Ernest L. Stevens' rendition of the most popular of all ragtime tunes, "Maple Leaf Rag." King of the Ragtime Writers offers a nice portrait of a composer grown into a mature artist, and the 17 pieces provide a good overview of the happiest of styles.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.