The 1977 movie on the life of Scott Joplin featured Billy Dee Williams, who stiffly played the title role, but jazz fans will be more interested in this soundtrack with music of Joplin, arranged and performed by pianist Dick Hyman, who had previously recorded a six-LP set of Joplin's compositions. Most of the songs are heavily orchestrated, with little room for improvising. The most fun track is the duo-piano "Cutting Contest," which featured an ever-changing cast of pianists battling continuously in the film until they were removed by the judge (played by Eubie Blake in a cameo appearance, when he was 93 years old!), though all of the music is performed by Hyman and Hank Jones, finally ending up with a grand finale of "Maple Leaf Rag." Although this long-unavailable LP is not an essential part of Dick Hyman's huge discography, it has enough worthwhile music to make it worth the investment.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden