In the first decades of the twentieth century, a youthful group of classically trained pianists and composers on both sides of the Atlantic engaged in the musical experiment of fusing popular and classical musical forms to create a new form of music that took ragtime and novelty pianism to new heights of sophistication and splendor. Today, George Gershwin is certainly the best known of this pioneering group of pianists who were equally at home in both the classical and jazz worlds but whose compositions straddle the two. Equally admired and celebrated in their ear were Gerhswin's contemporaries and colleagues, Dana Suesse, Billy Mayerl, and Adam Carroll. These composers dramatically increased the level of sophistication of popular music while at the same time making classical music less dour and more attractive.
To audiences in the late 1920s, the Three Preludes of George Gershwin (1898-1937) were marvelously and shockingly original. Following the pattern established by his Rhapsody in Blue (1924), Gershwin’s preludes are perfect examples of American musical nationalism, i.e., classic music using musical ideas or motifs that are identified with the melodies, rhythms, and harmonies of the American popular music of the 1920s.
4. Novelette In Fourths
In 1919, Gershwin recorded ten reproducing piano rolls for the prestigious Welte Mignon company. Among these is the clever “Novelette in Fourths” (Welte Mignon 3968). Never published or recorded in any other format, the “Novelette” is fully within the tradition of the novelty ragtime musical genre that was rapidly evolving in the early 1920s.
5. Rialto Ripples Rag
George Gershwin & Will Donaldson
Jerome H. Remick Music Corp, 1917
In 1914, at the age of fifteen, Gershwin accepted his first job, as a staff piano accompanist at the Jerome H. Remick music publishing company. After many years on the staff, Remick published Gershwin’s first solo piano composition, “Rialto Ripples Rag.” Remick staff composer Will Donaldson’s name appears as collaborator on the piece, but it is unknown what role, if any, he played in its composition. Gershwin recorded the piece on player piano roll for the Aeolian company and released the roll to the public in September of 1916 on its subsidiary labels Uni-Record Melody (#202935) and Metro-Art (#202934). Naturally, Gershwin’s arrangement on piano roll is technically more complex and interesting than the published sheet music arrangement, which, was heavily simplified for the benefit of the sheet music buying public.
6. Blue Moonlight
Famous Music Corp. 1935
Billed as “The Girl Gershwin,” Dana Suesse (1909-1987) leapt to national prominence in 1928 with her Gershwinesque composition “Syncopated Love Song.” Moving from strength to strength, Paul Whiteman commissioned her to write “Blue Moonlight” for piano and orchestra in 1934. While producing a steady stream of exceptional classical music in the jazz idiom, Suesse was also in demand as a composer of popular songs such as “You Ought To Be In Pictures” and “My Silent Love.” Whiteman recorded “Blue Moonlight” with his concert orchestra in 1934 featuring Roy Bargy on the piano. My arrangement for solo piano is based on the Whiteman recording as arranged by Adolph Deutsch.
7. Afternoon of a Black Faun
Famous Music Corp. 1938
With an obvious wink and nod to Claude Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun,” Dana Suesse scored a big hit with “Afternoon of a Black Faun” in 1938. Employing the bluesy motifs and stride piano rhythms of Harlem, Suesse created a rich harmonic tapestry that beautifully evokes the Art Deco glamour of Manhattan in the 1930s.
Keith Prowse 1927
One of the most significant contributors to the genre of novelty piano, English pianist and composer Billy Mayerl (1902-1959) found his great success with his piano novelty “Marigold.” My arrangement of “Marigold” makes use the imaginative variations that Mayerl himself introduced into his 1935 piano duet arrangement as well as the rare 1927 dance band orchestration. This uncredited orchestration published by Keith Prowse in 1927 contains new sections and key changes not found in either the piano solo or duet scores. It is tempting to imagine that Mayerl himself was the arranger.
9-12. Four Aces Suite
9. Ace of Clubs
10. Ace of Diamonds
11. Ace of Hearts
12. Ace of Spades
Keith Prowse 1933
Billy Mayerl displays his deep interest in the impressionism of Ravel and Debussy in the “Four Aces Suite.” Like the Gershwin “Preludes,” Mayer’s “Four Aces Suite” is a fusion of novelty piano jazz and classical music.
13. Springtime Of Love
A Concert Paraphrase by Frederick Hodges
James Scott – Frederick Hodges
Will L. Livernash Music Co., 1918
Like Scott Joplin, ragtime composer James Scott (1885-1938) was eager to explore all the popular dance forms of the day, including the waltz. “Springtime of Love” was published in a fairly ordinary piano arrangement that has hampered its popularity with ragtime aficionados. My concert paraphrase, in the tradition of Franz Liszt, is intended to recast Scott’s composition and reveal its previously hidden beauties.
Robbins Music Corp, 1927
The brilliant pianist Adam Carroll was born on 19 March 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Carroll studied with Professor von Stoppi, formerly of the Leipzig Conservatory. He left high school after his father's death and began accompanying silent pictures in the Philadelphia area. By 1917, Carroll was recording for Republic Player Roll Corporation. In 1922, he was hired by the Ampico Corporation, where he recorded hundreds of piano rolls. In the 1920s, he teamed up with fellow Ampico pianist Ralph Rainger, appearing in such Broadway shows as Angela (1928), and The Little Show (1929) In the 1930s, Carroll formed a duo piano team with yet another Ampico pianist, Edgar Fairchild, and appeared in such Broadway shows as Rodger and Hart’s On Your Toes (1936) and Babes in Arms (1937). Carroll appeared as a soloist in the Broadway shows Three’s A Crowd (1930), and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1933-1934. He also served as Fred Astaire’s rehearsal pianist for The Gay Divorce. The duo were regularly featured on radio, most notably on Eddie Cantor’s weekly Camel show. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Carroll toured with popular comedian, Broadway and Hollywood star Frank Fay. Carroll died on 28 February 1974.
Carroll recorded "Nanette" for the Ampico (68211F) in 1927, but no other commercial recordings appear to have been made until legendary pianist Peter Mintun recorded the piece on his ground-breaking LP Piano Styles of Peter Mintun in 1977.
“Sycopétude” is a brilliant composition that was never published or recorded until now. Carroll performed it on the radio in 1924 [Music Trade Review, vol. 78, no. 11 (March 15, 1924): p. 25.]. In 1965, Carroll revealed the story behind its composition:
Another fine artist from Paris, France, was Maurice Dumesnil famous concert pianist, who would come to the U.S.A. to appear in concert and record for us. He was a brother of Dumesnil the French flying ace who was a member of the French Escadrilk Air Squadron. They became famous in World War I for engaging and defeating Baron Manfred von Richtofen's "Flying Circus.' Germany's great air force. I became friendly with Maurice and found that he was most keen about our American "pop" music! In fact, after hearing some of my Ampico recordings, he asked if I'd compose something very technical, for him to use as an encore to his performance of Chopin, Bach, Brahms, Liszt, Debussy and Ravel, whose compositions he played in his concerts. Thrilled at the request, I consented and wrote two compositions, endeavoring to make them really technical and tough to play. Their titles were, "Syncopétude" and "Racing Down the Blacks and Whites" (schnazi titles, huh!). Both numbers were melodic and in rhythm.
Just before Dumesnil was to return to France, I played the compositions for him and he "flipped" saying, "Wonderful! Adam, will you please help me play these compositions?" I consented, wrote the piano scores and presented them to him, saying, "Maurice, it'll be an honor to have you play my compositions on the same program with the 'masters'" He replied: "I am honored." We shook hands and I bid him "bon voyage."
Weeks later, from Paris, I received a beautiful letter from him, and enclosed was a programme and press reviews. Sure enough, on the programme following his concert selections were listed my compositions. There were superlative adjectives in the press review from a Parisian newspaper. I read it and was elated by its content. To quote (not verbatim but pretty close to the facts)
"Maurice Dumesnil was superior in his recital, etc. A highlight was his performance of two modern American compositions, 'Syncopétude' and `Racing Down the Blacks and Whites' written by an American composer whose name is Adam Carroll. These compositions required excellent piano technique and are melodic. The ovation Dumesnil received at the conclusion of these new works was immense. Let's hear more of this type music along with Chopin, Bach, etc. Carroll shows promise of becoming a modern Franz Liszt."
16. Racing Down The Black And Whites
Harms Inc, 1926
As the companion piece to “Syncopétude,” this virtuosic composition fulfills the promise of its descriptive title and reveals Carroll’s complete mastery of the art of keyboard composition.
17. Grand Fantasy on Themes from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat
Jerome Kern – Frederick Hodges
T.B. Harms 1928
My Grand Fantasy on Themes from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat is a concert paraphrase based on Walter Paul’s rarely heard original 1928 orchestration of “Selections from Show Boat,” arranged for full theater orchestra. I first performed this piece in 2009 with the Palm Court Light Orchestra in Vancouver Canada under the direction of Charles Job. After the first rehearsal with the orchestra, I realized that this piece would make an exciting piano solo in the tradition of Liszt’s grand opera fantasies for piano. Walter Paul’s arrangement is important because it was made before extensive revisions and cuts had been made to the score of Show Boat during initial tryouts. Consequently, it includes songs and incidental music found nowhere else.
Hailed by the press as one of the best ragtime pianists in the world, Frederick Hodges is sought after by today’s foremost orchestras, festivals, conductors, and collaborative musicians. His absolute artistry, virtuosity and charisma have brought him to the world’s most renowned stages numerous times, leaving audiences around the globe repeatedly captivated. Mr. Hodges has made regular appearances at major ragtime and jazz festivals throughout the US as well as world tours with the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra under the baton of conductor Don Neely.
Renowned as a pianist and singer, Frederick Hodges is recognized by audiences around the world for his mastery of diverse repertoire from Liszt to Gershwin. He has established a reputation as a truly versatile artist equally sought after as soloist, singer, guest soloist with the California Pops Orchestra, and dance band pianist. He has appeared on national television, radio, and in several Hollywood films. He is also a sought-after silent film accompanist for both live performances and on DVD. He performs regularly at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, The Redding Silent Film Festival, and the Cinecon Film Festival in Hollywood
His extensive repertoire includes the great European classical masters as well as all the best ragtime, stride, and novelty piano solo pieces, including the complete works of Roy Bargy, Phil Ohman, Zez Confrey, and Adam Carroll, as well as less-known works by Scott Joplin, James Scott, George L. Cobb and Charley Straight. His distinguished discography, mainly on Stomp Off and Aristophone Records, includes piano works by Lucky Roberts, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Phil Ohman, Arthur Schutt, and Scott Joplin.
Frederick Hodges is a native of California, where he began his piano studies at age eight. At thirteen, he began intense classical piano study with two famed San Francisco Bay Area piano teachers who were both graduates of the Juilliard School of Music: Virginia Moore and Trula Whelan. At age seventeen, he won the prestigious Music Teachers of California Young Artist Award. At twenty, while still an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, he joined Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra as pianist. Since then, he has toured extensively. Frederick has enjoyed a career playing solo piano for society parties and holding down steady engagements at legendary San Francisco establishments such as L'Etoile in the Huntington Hotel, Masons in the Fairmont Hotel, and the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
In 2001, Frederick earned a doctorate in history from Oxford University in England, where he lived for five years. Frederick has participated in many prestigious festivals including in Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the West Coast Ragtime Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Blind Boone Ragtime and Jazz Festival in Columbia Missouri, the Templeton Ragtime Festival at Mississippi State University, the El Segundo Ragtime Festival, and the Sedalia Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. His website is: HYPERLINK "http://www.frederickhodges.com" www.frederickhodges.com
Recording Engineer: Dix Bruce
Mastering: Jim Nunally
Recording Location: Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland, California
HYPERLINK "http://www.piedmontpiano.com" www.piedmontpiano.com
Recording date: 27 January 2010
Fazioli model F278 (9 foot 2 inches), serial number 2781695
Cover photo: Laurie Gordon
Graphic design and layout: Bryan Wright
P. O. Box 3081
Lynchburg, VA 24503
HYPERLINK "http://www.rivermontrecords.com" www.rivermontrecords.com
Producers: Frederick Hodges and Robert Gonzalez
Copyright 2010 by Frederick Hodges
All arrangements copyright Frederick Hodges
Aristophone Records Catalogue Number CDFH103
I would like to thank Jim Callahan, proprietor of the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, California, for making his store and instruments available to me. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to have performed on a beautiful piano manufactured by Fazioli Pianoforti in Sacile, Italy. Fazioli pianos are among the very best pianos made in the world today.
Other CDs by Frederick Hodges
Up And Down The Keys. Aristophone Records CDFH102
Kitten On The Keys. Aristophone Records CDFH101
Turn on the Heat: Stomp Off Records CD1333
Double Trouble: Hot Piano Duets. Frederick Hodges and Adam Swanson. Rivermont Records BSW-2211
Ragtime Dance Party: The Crown Syncopators. Ragophile 1005
Hello, Frisco! Ragtime Songs Performed by Miss Ann Gibson with Frederick Hodges, piano. Lovers Point Jazz Productions Inc.
Picnics: Classic Ragtime Music. Frederick Hodges with the Pickles and Peaches Ragtime Orchestra Menus and Music Productions 07DMS
All CDs available at: HYPERLINK "http://www.frederickhodges.com" www.frederickhodges.com