John Remmers • Hand-Played Rags

John Remmers • Hand-Played RagsWherever there has been an open piano at ragtime events, John Remmers has been a familiar face for many years.  This is his first recording and it should help listeners to put a name with the face.  His selections range from best-loved classics to rare rediscoveries; all are competently played.  The title refers to the fact that no artificial additions or corrections were made to the recording.  It is risky to release a CD that contains no editing, but he acquits himself well.

All pieces are played as per the scores and repeats are honored.  It is interesting to note that between a third and a half of the selections contain little or no syncopation, but Remmers applies little subtle variations here and there to add interest.  All tempos are represented and the dynamics range from medium to forte.

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Four seldom-heard compositions by Charles L. Johnson are included here.  Dixie Twilight is a lightly syncopated cakewalk, The Alabama Slide is fast with showers of single notes, Silver Star is an un-syncopated march, and The Barber Pole Rag puts all of its cakewalk syncopation into the A-strain.  Other rarities include the primitive-sounding Cottonfield Capers by W.C. O’Hare (I have a hard time visualizing cotton pickers “capering” in the fields); Shake Yo’ Dusters by W.H. Krell, the man who reportedly published the first rag in 1897 (Mississippi Rag); and the fast showpiece Pearl of the Harem by Detroit composer Harry P. Guy.

On the familiar side, Scott Joplin (Something Doing [with Scott Hayden], Bethena and Gladiolus Rag) and Joseph Lamb (The Bee Hive Rag and Bohemia Rag) are well represented.  Others are Adeline Shepard (Pickles and Peppers) and David Guion, a name that is rapidly gaining recognition for his uniquely beautiful Texas Fox Trot.  Favorites were the exuberant Barber Pole RagPearl of the Harem and the Bee Hive Rag, one of Lamb’s more experimental compositions with its wonderful raggy D-strain.  On the minus side, Gladiolus Rag could have benefited from more legato in the left hand to soften the monotonous boom-chick bass.

John Remmers has collected an interesting potpourri of pieces from the early years of ragtime (1898-1915) and presented them in a non-apologetic, straight-forward fashion.  Many styles are represented here, which makes for pleasant listening.

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Hand-Played Rags
John Remmers, pianist

Pickles and Peppers / Texas Fox Trot / Dixie Twilight / Something Doing / The Alabama Slide / Bethena / Silver Star / Cottonfield Capers / The Barber Pole Rag / Shake Yo’ Dusters / Contentment Rag / The Bee Hive Rag / Pearl of the Harem / Gladiolus Rag / Bohemia Rag.

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