Ethan Uslan is a 27-year-old pianist and a new name on the ragtime scene. Winning first place at the 2007 World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest (Peoria, Illinois), Ethan wowed the crowds with his dazzling arrangements of 1920s standards and virtuosic interpretations of ragtime and stride showpieces. Since then, he has continued to earn recognition in the ragtime world, most recently as a featured performer at the 2006 International Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri. For this Carolina-themed CD, Ethan brilliantly executes his unique interpretations of rags, cakewalks, songs, and novelties from the 1890s-2000s. Recorded 2006. 68 minutes.
From Jack Rummel's ragtime music reviews (www.ragtimers.org):
"Uslan carries on the tradition of taking familiar pop melodies and turning them into four-alarm stride vehicles. His rhythm is solid, he uses a full range of dynamics and his cascading single notes are like liquid – all the while making everything sound so easy. His bag of improvisational tricks is vast, although a couple of them (throwing chords back and forth between hands in a heavily syncopated fashion; and moving the melody to the bass clef) seem to show up in every number. You pick the tempo, he’s always got it in control.
He plays the rags pretty much as written, often using a staccato approach. While Joplin ’s Gladiolus Rag was a bit fast for my tastes, I certainly enjoyed the others. Carolina Tar Heel by Dan J. Sullivan is a rarity from 1898 that deserves to be perpetuated. To these, Uslan has added four notable contemporary rags: Scotty Dog Rag by David Lee, with its deceiving syncopation in the B-section; the innovative Carolina Rose by Brett Youens; the strutting Ticklish Tom – A Carolina Cakewalk by Bryan Wright; and Uslan’s own Carolina Chickadee, which with its sparkling triplets makes a great addition to the “bird rag” genre.
It was hard to pick favorites, but clustered toward the top were his opening cut, plus Tiger Rag (it has one of the best “roars” on record), Scotty Dog Rag, Carolina Rose and Carolina Chickadee. Special mention goes to Southology by Joe Sanders, a tone poem with no driving rhythm which provides a lovely break halfway through the disc and a distinct departure from the rest of the choices.
The sound, liner notes and graphics are all excellent. Ethan Uslan is a prodigious talent and has given us a strong first effort with this CD."