Jeff Barnhart

Rare & Rip-Roarin' Rags of 1910

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Ragtime remained the dominant musical genre in the United States for well over a generation, with its forerunners clearly stirring in the 1890s and its last flourishes as a pure form extending up to about 1920. Within this period there were several individual smaller crazes, as well as a more general trajectory in which a form invented by African Americans became adopted and sometimes formulaically exploited by white composers. The programming concept offered here by pianist Jeff Barnhart is excellent; few or no previous ragtime interpreters have taken a cross-section of the music from a single year, in this case 1910. The rags all come from a single sheet music collection in Omaha, NE, and although a few names, such as May Aufderheide (ragtime's preeminent female composer), will be familiar to ragtime buffs, others are all but unknown. One of the trends of that year was apparently ethnic-flavored ragtime, perhaps inspired by Irving Berlin's vocal hit of the previous year, Yiddle on Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime. Al Piantadosi's That Italian Rag puts one in mind with its quasi-dramatic passages of a contest at which operatic tunes were "ragged," and The Irish Rag of Harry Carroll and the Haytian Rag of Ford Dabney are also included and have at least a hint of local flavor. Those interested in the development of ragtime among women in later decades will note several pieces by unknown female composers: Irene Franklin, Jean Schwartz, and Annie Ford McKnight. The performances are the weak spot here; Barnhart takes everything at the same tempo and with the same brilliant pounding, and the cumulative effect of the album is a bit tiring. But there is plenty of new music here for researchers and performers to chew on.

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