Charles Thompson

The Neglected Professor

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A case could be made for Charley Thompson being one of the greatest early period pianists, ranking right up there with Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, and Fats Waller. These original Euphonic label sessions of released and several previously unreleased Trebor Tichener house-party recordings show the diverse approach that Thompson used, from ragtime and barrelhouse to swing and straight blues. Thompson is know for having beaten Tom Turpin in a competition in 1916, and for his unique technique of playing the piano palms up. Sound quality on these sides is acceptable. These 26 tracks are mostly two-minute ditties. There are three takes of his famous "Lily Rag," using good energy and staggered syncopation. You get the "Delmar Blues" and "Delmar Rag" (plus alternate take) using Robert E. Lee-type uppity stride, a boogie-inflected or tango-tinged "St. Louis Blues," and a pair of great two-beat stride, Turpin-timed "When Sambo Goes to France" renditions. "Centennial Rag" is a classic that was written in 1964 for St. Louis, with "King Porter Stomp" refrains. The similarly epic "12th St. Rag" has small arpeggiated figures, while "The One I Love" is a solid, deliberate rag. Contrasting motions crop up on the languid yet impatient moments of "Lingering Blues," while "The Dream" is at once lilting and racehorse-like. Also featured are the blues, stride, and two-beat in the spousal tribute "How Deep Is the Ocean?" and the reverential, "Old Rugged Cross"-styled "Tenessee Waltz." Hard staccato chords with boogie inform "Chimes Blues," whereas unrelenting energy and precision is evidenced during "Carolina Shout." "Maori" is a near tango, "Derby Stomp" is romping and free wheeling, "Leola" offers a delicate two beat, and "Brother-In-Law Dan" sounds like it's from a different session -- much longer (a whopping four minutes), slower, darker, and sonically muddier. The three most unusual tracks are "Five Foot Two," aka "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?," with a tinkling bridge and an intro story concerning prohibition; "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night," signified by the whistled, vocalized, hand-clapped, and distorted MC (Tichener?); and the second to fourth gear-shifted "Dicty's on 7th Ave," drowned by the noise of a gabby crowd. Yes, Thompson is neglected and nestled in obscurity, but this CD might turn some heads and change some minds. Recommended, especially for early piano lovers.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:04
2 1:38
3 1:33
4 2:12
5 1:34
6 2:18
7 1:39
8 1:52
9 1:29
10 1:29
11 1:28
12 2:19
13 1:52
14 1:06
15 2:09
16 1:38
17 1:54
18 3:56
19 2:01
20 3:11
21 1:23
22 2:42
23 2:11
24 3:34
25 2:44
26 2:32
blue highlight denotes track pick