Cotton Bolls by Charles Hunter

Charles HunterCharles Hunter (1876-1906) is an important figure in Ragtime’s history, perhaps the greatest influence of today’s Folk Ragtime. His 1901 Cotton Bolls is a well-loved piece, having been recorded by numerous performers. Two recommended recordings of Cotton Bolls are Trebor Tichenor’s (in Smithsonian Folkways’ Days Beyond Recall, available for download from Amazon Music and iTunes) and Adam Swanson’s (from his live album An Evening in the Diamond Belle Saloon, BSW-2252, available at rivermontrecords.com).

The charm of Hunter’s piece is well-captured by both performers, and well-reinforced by the unique (but not distractingly so) sonic character of their pianos. A point of departure between the two recordings comes in the second-to-last measure of the piece’s C section: Swanson plays the written D-flat major arpeggio; Tichenor elects to play a modified D-flat major scale, identical to what Hunter wrote in the corresponding section and measure of Possum and Taters. Sheet music for Cotton Bolls is in the public domain and available for download on imslp.org.

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Brandon Byrne is a ragtime composer, performer, and scholar. Max Morath said of Byrne, “Brandon’s unique compositions display unparalleled gifts and hidden virtuosity. His music reflects the past and challenges the future. His playing will touch your soul.” For a full list of his compositions, please visit his website.

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