Every style of jazz has its heroes, individuals without whom particular strains of the music wouldn’t have been born. For swing there’s Benny Goodman. The mention of Bebop instantly conjures the jovial visage of Bird. Coltrane arguably weighs heaviest in the realm of post bop. When it comes to Ragtime no other name carries as much clout as Scott Joplin. Joplin’s rags set the standard for the turn of the century popular art form, inspiring a legion of musical progeny. Among their number was Brun Campbell, a pupil of Joplin’s who tailored the teachings of mentor to his own expressive style throughout a career that spanned a half-century.
Three dozen tracks recorded in Campbell’s twilight years present a picture of pianist that is embellished by interview segments and commentary by the man himself. During the opening segment he reflects back on many of his peers, citing the legendary Charles Thompson as the finest technician of the bunch. Familiar staples like Joplin’s famous “Maple Leaf Rag” are in the minority with most of the space devoted to Campbell’s own emendations on the. Ragtime, like the blues, is a music that requires careful listening to uncover the often-subtle rhythmic and harmonic differences between compositions and players. Digested in a single sitting, much of Campbell’s repertoire blends together into a homogenous, but no less satisfying mash of music. The frequent pairing of alternate and master takes of tunes in succession further adds to the sameness of some of the stretches on the disc, but rag fiends are unlikely to be troubled by such programmatic preferences. As the performances suitably make clear, Campbell was one of the greats, and these recordings, taped by Euphonic Sounds label owner Paul Affeldt do his memory the greatest service by preserving a cross section of both his songbook and playing style. Ragtime aficionados take note; this one is a must for the collection shelves.
Track Listing: Interview With Brun/ Essay In Ragtime (master)/ Essay In Ragtime (alternate)/ Ginger Snap Rag (master)/ Ginger Snap Rag (alternate)/ Salome’s Slow Drag (master)/ Salome’s Slow Drag (alternate)/ Fragment (master)/ Fragment (alterante)/ Frankie and Johnny Rag (master)/ Frankie and Johnny Rag (alternate)/ Lulu White (master)/ Lulu White (alternate)/ Blue Rag/ Unknown #2/ Unknown #1/ Short Rag/ Unknown #3/ Tent Show Rag/ Talk/ Grandpa’s Stomp (master)/ Grandpa’s Stomp (alternate)/ Brun’s Slow Drag/ Campbell Cakewalk/ Rendezvous Rag/ Slow and Easy/ Twelfth Street Rag (master)/ Twelfth Street Rag (alternate #5)/ Twelfth Street Rag (alternate #6)/ Barber Shop Rag (master)/ Barber Shop Rag (alternate)/ Maple Leaf Rag/ Reminiscences/ Brun Reads Homage to Joplin/ Introduction to Maple Leaf Rag/ Maple Leaf Rag (Joplin Piano Roll).
Personnel: Brun Campbell- piano & vocals. Recorded: 1947.