Mimi Blais

Old Rags, New Rags

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Mimi Blais, Canada's "New Queen of Ragtime," once again combines the classic with the contemporary for Old Rags, New Rags, but this time she intentionally separates the two groups. (Also as usual, some of the material overlaps with her other albums.) Blais starts off with traditional ragtime music, written by the likes of Tom Turpin, Cecil Macklin, and Joseph Lamb, and tosses in for good measure, Gershwin's pseudo-rag Rialto Ripples and Confrey's Kitten on the Keys. As expected, she puts her own twist on all of these, with improvised ornamentation and new bridge material. For Kitten on the Keys, she plays up its stride piano qualities. Blais not only brings out the toe-tapping, energetic fun of ragtime, but also shows it can be tender, as in her tango version of Arthur Marshall's The Pippin. The new rags include The Last of the Ragtime Pioneers, by Galen Wilkes, which is thoroughly idiomatic of the ragtime genre. The Wrong Rag, by Glenn Jenks, could also be mistaken for an older work, except for its shifting, irregular meter. Jenks also composed Gymnoraggy, which sounds more like a free jazz improvisation on Satie than ragtime. Blais' own contributions, La Dinde and Le Rag-à-Nat, are like Confrey's novelty rags, featuring turkey gobbles and a toy piano, respectively. Blais' classical training comes out in her sensitivity to phrasing and coloring. Lamb's The Nightingale, in particular, takes on some Romantic concert piano proportions in her hands. She also has a well-practiced sound, but nevertheless, her absolute enjoyment of the music comes through clearly.

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