COMPACT DISC REVIEW
Adam Swanson, piano
Rivermont Records BSW-2245
Waffles / Friday Night Stomp / Gold Bar Rag / One for the Road / Show-Me Rag / Deep in the Ozarks / Brun Campbell Express / Little Wabash Special / Luscious Slices / Marzipan / Flypaper Rag / Ragapples / Tango Fredette / A Novice Novelty / The Strater Shuffle / Sutter Creek Crawl / Balderdash! / Blue Sahara / Over the Top / Elephant Tracks.
It seems Adam Swanson has always had an affinity for the new rags written during the earlier revival period of the twentieth century, i.e., from the late 1950s into the early 1980s. In contrast to “Contemporary Rags,” which started to appear in the late 1970s, these pieces have sometimes been labeled “Nostalgia Rags,” being, as he says, “…newer music that still retains that ‘old-time’ sound.” Swanson has also gravitated toward compositions that allow him to showcase his mastery of speed and agility, and by selecting this period in our history he has found much fertile ground to plow.
It seems strange to open this CD with a piece by Joseph Lamb, but the rediscovery of a lost composition of his certainly deserves top billing. Waffles was one of several novelty piano solos that Lamb penned in the 1920s for Mills Music, Inc. Thought to be lost forever, Swanson found bits and pieces (including one complete section) and has stitched them together very effectively.
Roughly the first half of the remaining selections are from the earlier revival period. The featured composers are Johnny Maddox (Friday Night Stomp, Tango Fredette), Max Morath (Gold Bar Rag, One for the Road), Trebor Tichenor (Show-Me Rag, Deep in the Ozarks), Tom Shea (Brun Campbell Express, Little Wabash Special), Ian Whitcomb (Luscious Slices, Marzipan) and Bob Milne (Flypaper Rag).
The rest of the rags date from the twenty-first century, perhaps selected by Swanson to show that nostalgia rags aren’t just a twentieth century phenomenon but continue to be written. He includes two works of his own (A Novice Novelty, The Strater Shuffle), plus those of Bill Edwards and Marty Mincer (who teamed up on Ragapples), Kylan deGhetaldi (Sutter Creek Crawl) and Tom Brier (Balderdash!, Blue Sahara, Over the Top, Elephant Tracks).
It is clear that Swanson is in his element here, for his complete control of the various styles and complexities seems effortless. His subtle variations are pleasing and do not detract from the intent of the original scores. The piano, a nine-foot Yamaha grand, really rings true and is captured effectively by well-placed microphones. The CD is handsomely packaged and includes 10 pages of liner notes by the artist, with a paragraph devoted to each piece.
The ragtime revivals of the ‘50s and beyond are an important part of the genre. Adam Swanson has taken this project seriously and the resulting quality is excellent. Don’t let this one slip by. Highly recommended.
Available for $20.00 plus postage (or $9.95 as a digital download) from <cdbaby.com>.