Scott Joplin

Original Rags [Fruit Tree 2005]

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This disc is part of a mysterious series from an Italian label called Fruit Tree, apparently part of another equally mysterious label called Abraxas Records. You can search its website for more information about the contents of this disc, but all you find there is an address and phone number. The packaging itself includes no information at all beyond a dozen track titles (the music fills barely half of a standard CD's length), an indication that the music comes from piano rolls, and an error-riddled sketch of Joplin's life (did you know that he "wrote many Ragtime ballets and Ragtime operas"?). There's nothing about the provenance of the piano rolls themselves. They seem to be by Joplin himself, who recorded a good deal of his music in the new medium as his health deteriorated in the last years of his life. One can learn something about how ragtime was performed from these rolls (despite his own indications to the contrary, Joplin sometimes lightly ornamented the repeats), but with their metronomic sameness they're hardly an ideal way to encounter his music. The inclusion of the Stoptime Rag, which has a stamped-foot part that can't be reproduced on a player piano, is typical of the slapdash nature of this entire project, as is the missing co-composer credit for Scott Hayden on the Kismet Rag (1913). Joplin specialists will probably already know and be able to identify these rolls, and they're not terribly useful in this form to anyone else.

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