In 2014, pianist Jacob Adams ran across a book of rags (Eight Ragtime Pieces For Piano) by veteran Larry Porter that instantly intrigued him. Porter’s rags, while being new works, are very much in the ragtime tradition and several sound as if they could have been written in 1905. Despite that, the music is not derivative and, while one could imagine Scott Joplin composing a few of these, the melodies are fresh and lively with some subtle surprises along the way.
For his Equanimity CD, Adams recorded all eight of Porter’s pieces along with five of his own pieces. Of the Porter works, “Crab Apple Rag” is particularly delightful, building up to a happy final theme. “Classical Rag” is a bit more personal and adventurous although still in the classic format. “Grand Slam Rag” utilizes one main theme with variations, “Homesick Rag” has a light and appealing interpretation, “Peace March” quotes Beethoven, and “The Penny Arcade” stretches a bit beyond the Joplin era.
Adams’ own rags, while staying within classic ragtime, are sometimes pretty harmonically advanced and show that he has his own compositional style. “Introspection Rag,” which lives up to its name, is partly taken out of tempo and is gentle and thoughtful. In contrast the winning “Quintessential Rag” and “Throwback Rag” sound spontaneous and quite joyous as if Adams was simply playing music for the fun of it.