How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Clear and crisp, the two-step of ragtime brings the eight-piece Manhattan Ragtime Orchestra into our homes for a session of good old-fashioned delights. Theirs is a happy music. Bouncing politely and strutting with a carefree air, the notes appear to jump up and down in lock step on the page. Society bands and formal gatherings from the turn of the last century would welcome this contemporary band's interpretation of their work.
Trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, trombonist Brad Shigeta and clarinetist Orange Kellin share the front line duties. Characteristic swoops from trombone, contra-melodies from clarinet, and a clear, lyrical interpretation from trumpet give the session a noble authority. The arrangements turn out sparkling clean and perfectly in order. Bassist Conal Fowkes provides the beat and drummer Rob Garcia supplies the music's light backbeat. Piano and banjo add harmony and enforce the band's strutting meter.
Scott Joplin's 1909 "Euphonic Sounds" puts the whole orchestra out front. After the horns establish a powerful cadence, violinist Skye Steele holds sway with a mellow interlude section that leads to a full orchestral treatment. Joplin apparently envisioned bringing Beethoven into the fold.
Sweet songs such as "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" lend a familiar atmosphere to the program. "Lassus Trombone" and "St. Louis Blues," equally familiar, connect the session to a wider audience that includes lovers of blues, trad jazz and more. For the most part, however, the stiffness of ragtime and its inherent purity appeals only to a specialized segment of the listening and record collecting public. Nevertheless, the Manhattan Ragtime Orchestra has recreated a vital piece of history and brings it to us with impeccable accuracy.
Track Listing: Magnetic Rag; The Junk Man Rag; Cubanola Glide; Mama's Gone, Goodbye; Memphis Blues (Mr. Crump); The Cannon Ball; Maori (A Samoan Dance); New Orleans Wiggle; A Bunch of Blues; Euphonic Sounds; Oh, You Beautiful Doll/On Mobile Bay; Ghost of the Blues; La Pas Ma La; Lassus Trombone; St. Louis Blues; Kinklets; Egyptia; The Thriller; Porto Rico; Kiss Me Sweet; Blame it on the Blues.
Personnel: Jon-Erik Kellso- cornet; Skye Steele- violin; Orange Kellin- clarinet; Brad Shigeta- trombone; Terry Waldo- piano, vocal on the medley "Oh, You Beautiful Doll/On Mobile Bay;" John Gill- banjo, vocals on "Memphis Blues" and "St. Louis Blues;" Conal Fowkes- bass; Rob Garcia- drums.