The Red Back Book

New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble

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The Red Back Book Review

by Scott Yanow

Back around 1910, John Stark published "Fifteen Standard High Class Rags," a folio soon nicknamed "The Red Back Book" and containing colorful arrangements for 11 ragtime pieces, mostly by Scott Joplin. In 1973 Gunther Schuller and the New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble recorded seven of the charts plus a new reworking of "Sugar Cane"; a pair of piano solos by Myron Romanul (of "The Entertainer" and "Sun Flower Slow Drag") round out this highly enjoyable set. Hearing Joplin's music interpreted by a group consisting of trumpet, trombone, clarinet, flute/piccolo, tuba, piano, bass, drums and a string quartet helps cast new light on these vintage themes. The LP (which will hopefully be reissued on CD eventually) is highly recommended for ragtime collectors.