Jazz  •  New Orleans/Classic Jazz

Novelty Ragtime

Novelty ragtime actually developed in the 1920s, after jazz had already begun putting an end to ragtime's heyday. Novelty ragtime (sometimes referred to as novelty piano) was actually more sophisticated than standard ragtime, with its name coming from its comparatively off-kilter feel, not because it was goofy or disposable. Its mostly classically trained composers made greater use of chromaticism, and its more complex rhythmic syncopations and melodies demanded flashier technical displays from the pianists who performed in the style (in fact, novelty ragtime originated as a piano-roll form). Despite its more complicated musical embellishments, novelty ragtime was looser and more swinging than ragtime, especially in the way its melodies matched up with the underlying rhythms. Arguably the first novelty ragtime compositions appeared in 1921 in the form of "Kitten on the Keys" and "My Pet," both written by pianist Zez Confrey, generally acknowledged to be the style's most accomplished adherent. However, with the rise of the even harder-swinging stride piano style, novelty ragtime was largely forgotten.