Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

532

Marvin Hamlisch: The Sting: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Trevor MacLaren By

Sign in to view read count
The Sting: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Marvin Hamlisch
A&M
1973

Who doesn't know "The Entertainer"? If you don't, then you haven't been doing your musical homework. The theme of the great twenties crime caper The Sting is one of the best-known songs in the amazing repertoire of pre-jazz composer Scott Joplin. This soundtrack, my first jazz-oriented record as a child, began my life-long love affair with jazz and ragtime music.

Arguments over Joplin's music have been somewhat negative over the years. Many have stated that the pieces in his catalogue are repetitious in nature, but his influence on the development of jazz was huge. Joplin's clever use of syncopation alone makes his stance as one of the greatest American composers in history. His style and ideas led to the birth of jazz, as evidenced by the way it worked its way through early greats such as Jellyroll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and Sidney Bechet, to name a few. In the more-than-capable hands of the great contemporary composer Marvin Hamlisch, the soundtrack brought a whole new world to a forgotten music that is an essential cornerstone to all American music.

Although ragtime seems to have become nothing more than a footnote in the history of jazz, it played just as important a role in the development of jazz as blues. Drawing strongly from European classical music and marches, the highly syncopated structure it incorporated gave jazz an essential building block. The stride style is as close to ragtime as jazz gets. Stride gave ragtime the improvised structure and style of jazz while keeping its ragtime foundation. Many jazz greats would carry on Joplin's flame, most notably Eubie Blake and James P. Johnson, but ragtime lost its zing when jazz became the more popular music. Sixty years after its initial breakthrough had come and gone, this 1973 soundtrack of The Sting was a welcome change in a world preoccupied with fusion.

What makes this soundtrack work is Hamlisch's arrangements and orchestrations of Joplin's work. This disc serves in many ways as an introduction Joplin and the ragtime era. Each piece which serves a notable role in the film also plays out well on the record. Hamlisch recruited a great orchestra in order to make the music feel genuine and alive. Ragtime itself was a piano based music that was arranged for orchestras, but most sheet music and early recordings are primarily for a solo piano. Although it lacks somewhat in purity - Hamlisch has given himself co-credit for writing the tracks - the record still makes a great starting point for jumping into early jazz piano.

Suggested Listening:
Eubie Blake - 86 Years of Eubie Blake (Columbia 1968)
James P. Johnson - Harlem Stride Piano (1921-1929 Re-issued by Epm Musique 1996)
Joshua Rifkin - Piano Rags by Scott Joplin Vol. 1 (Nonesuch 1970)

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Full House Reassessing Full House
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 12, 2018
Read Of Things Not Seen Reassessing Of Things Not Seen
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 8, 2018
Read Shorty Rogers: Short Stops Reassessing Shorty Rogers: Short Stops
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Oscar Peterson & Stephane Grappelli: Skol Reassessing Oscar Peterson & Stephane Grappelli: Skol
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 10, 2013
Read Dizzy Gillespie: Dizzy’s Big 4 Reassessing Dizzy Gillespie: Dizzy’s Big 4
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 26, 2013
Read Art Tatum: Solo Masterpieces, Volume One Reassessing Art Tatum: Solo Masterpieces, Volume One
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 24, 2013
Read "Shorty Rogers: Short Stops" Reassessing Shorty Rogers: Short Stops
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "Full House" Reassessing Full House
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 12, 2018
Read "Of Things Not Seen" Reassessing Of Things Not Seen
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 8, 2018
Read "King Crimson at Lisner Auditorium" Live Reviews King Crimson at Lisner Auditorium
by Eric Thiessen
Published: November 1, 2017
Read "Steve Roach from California State University in Sacramento" Jazz Goes to College Steve Roach from California State University in Sacramento
by Debbie Burke
Published: August 28, 2017
Read "Ted Ludwig Trio at Little Rock's South on Main" Live Reviews Ted Ludwig Trio at Little Rock's South on Main
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2" Under the Radar Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 9, 2017
Read "Bill Frisell: Hurricane Harvey Relief: A Compilation From His Live Download Series" Download Reviews Bill Frisell: Hurricane Harvey Relief: A Compilation From...
by John Kelman
Published: October 1, 2017
Read "Take Five With Sylvia Brooks" Take Five With... Take Five With Sylvia Brooks
by Sylvia Brooks
Published: October 1, 2017