Dick Hyman

Knuckles O'Toole Plays the Greatest All Time Ragtime Hits

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During the height of the honky tonk piano craze during the 1950s, veteran jazz musicians were recorded under various pseudonyms as they played battered upright instruments with the felt pretty much worn off the hammers. This CD compilation, issued by Signal Sounds, was a labor of love for reissue producer Bill Edwards, who loved the original records and did his best to restore them while using LPs in place of the lost vinyl masters. Considering these limitations and the condition of the pianos, he did an excellent job. This collection compiles two unrelated LPs. Knuckles O'Toole, the pianist on the first 17 tracks, is none other than Dick Hyman, accompanied by an unknown rhythm section consisting of banjo, bass, and drums. The music consists of a mixture of turn of the century popular songs, ragtime, marches, and novelty piano works. Most of the songs have long been forgotten, though Hyman has continued to perform Zez Confrey's "Stumbling" and "Kitten on the Keys" for decades after these recordings were made, both of which sound even more humorous on honky tonk piano than a regular grand piano. Hyman also composed two authentic-sounding rags under the pseudonym J. Gaines. The remaining tracks are all vocal numbers, with a lead female singer under the pseudonym Bridey O'Toole joined by a male chorus, honky tonk piano, and rhythm section. The jazz content of this material is minimal, though the unidentified singer comes across as sincere and stays on pitch. Those born after 1960 are less likely to be familiar with these songs, as they have pretty much fallen out of favor with all but strictly traditional jazz bands.