Dink Johnson

Piano Players

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In 1994 an 18 track piano sampler of barrelhouse jazz, blues and ragtime was issued as The Piano Players on the American Music label. Featured were Ollie Dink Johnson (born in New Orleans circa 1880) and Charles Hubbard Thompson (born in St. Louis in 1891). Johnson's primary influence appears to have been Jelly Roll Morton, while Thompson's life was permanently altered by direct contact with James P. Johnson beginning in 1912. Fortunately for posterity, Charley and Dink were each recorded by publisher and early jazz lover Paul Affeldt. Their music was brought before the public through his Euphonic Sounds record label (named after a composition by Scott Joplin), and some of that material found its way onto American's Piano Players disc. Within a decade of that release, Delmark honored each musician with his own specially prepared album using material drawn from Affeldt's Euphonic archive. Dink's disc was titled Mr. Johnson Signing Off, while Charley was presented as The Neglected Professor.

At first glance 1994's The Piano Players seems to consist of recordings which were revisited on both collections, but closer scrutiny reveals that much of the album consists of alternate takes or titles which Delmark did not include in their track lists. This is good news indeed for those who love and respect these long gone masters of ragtime, barrelhouse, jazz and blues. Anyone who fits into that category of listener might seriously consider nabbing all three albums, for Mr. Johnson Signing Off closes with a pair of delightful old time jazz numbers by pianist Russ Gilman; The Neglected Professor is packed with no less than 26 privately recorded solos by Thompson, and The Piano Players includes what now must be considered their rarest and least known material. Delmark has also reissued the complete recordings of ragtime legend Brun Campbell (who actually studied with Scott Joplin), which were preserved by Affeldt and presented on LP along with some of the Dink Johnson tracks. Campbell's Delmark edition is accurately titled Joplin's Disciple.

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