When some one brings up the genre of ragtime to a musically intelligent person, 99% of the time, a man named Scott Joplin comes to mind. He single-handedly innovated a unique style of music that is nothing close to anything else. And when it skyrocketed at the turn of the 20th century with its rhythmic and catchy new sound that came out of nowhere, it was hard to not tolerate his music.
I couldn’t help but noticing while listening to this album how lively and somewhat youthful he plays the piano. It is as if his fingers are fluffy feathers gifted with swift and graceful movement along the ivories. Using a very staccato style in songs like “The Entertainer”, “Elite Syncopations” and “Fig Leaf Rag” one cannot help but tap his/her foot to any of these songs. He does a great job bringing up some liveliness by emphasizing the staccato and punchy notes. Now you may think to yourself that with all of these staccato notes that there is no room for smooth and flowing parts. He pulls that off too with songs like “Peacherine Rag” and “Swipesy”. He has the ability to make a speedy and enjoyable tune while mixing short and light notes with beautiful flowing ones.
Ragtime music itself is well known for very upbeat and syncopated rhythms and without it; it just would not be ragtime at all and, predictably, he does this exceptionally well. Now listing certain songs that standout with this quality would be extremely pointless mainly because I would end up listing the whole track list. This is truly a great contributor to the sound. There will be a steady harmony with an uneven and offbeat melody making this album even more rhythmic than it already is. That rhythm is a key suspect to what started the influential jazz movement.
The production for this album is flawless. It’s not perfectly clear and technical but that is what makes it so great because it is perfect for that sound. It is a bit fuzzy as if you were listening to it through a phonograph and I often visualize that I am in an old western bar in the 19th century and one just smashed a glass full of beer on an adversary’s head. The piano he is playing on doesn’t sound like a fine tune, crisp grand piano but rather an old, dusty, about-to-fall-apart sounding piano that a young, fledgling pianist stumbled upon and wants to toy with. The sound and the music truly go hand in hand.
Out of those three pros comes a con. Yeah the production is perfect, the flow is great and the syncopation makes it that much better but honestly this album gets really old and dull. 14 tracks of essentially the same style of song writing can become very irritating. It seems like one long ragtime song through out this whole listen making it great in small amounts but terrible for a long play.
Now I don’t want to leave you on a sour note because this album really compiles a lot of great ragtime hits from Scott Joplin. He is suspected to have influenced some of the greatest jazz performers and he paved the way for a lot of pianists. Every one of these flowing, lively and youthful tracks do not disappoint.
The way that it flows
The tracks get old
Too many tracks
Weeping Willow Rag
Maple Leaf Rag