This album seeks to imbue the music of over 100 years ago with the vigor and vitality with which it was performed when it was the cutting edge, dangerous music of its day. Too often when older styles are explored, the performer can get mired in a curator-like respect that saps the life out of the music they are exploring. My liner notes best describe my intent with "Doorways":
When Jack walked into the bar he felt the familiar slight rush of evening air at his back as the doors swung shut behind him. He had spent this day in 1947 pioneering; capturing the first recorded stereo sounds in Arizona history. As a chronicler of people’s music, indeed as a witness to a part of their souls, he always found himself in a state of heightened awareness regarding the sounds surrounding him. And so as a result, the rollicking, twinkling notes emanating from the piano in the corner—music that would merely conjure a dusty saloon in some Western film with actors named Gabby and Hoot in the ears of the only casually involved—stopped Jack in midstride. The authenticity, the feel of the tune emanating from the battered old upright in the corner deadened Jack’s senses to everything else in the room. He floated past the bar and the three or four patrons seated at it, heading straight for the piano and the aged, bald fellow pounding out a vibrant yet haunting melody that seemed to surface from the forgotten past directly through his fingers and into Jack’s heart.
His song over, the stooped figure at the piano sensed Jack’s presence and slowly turned in his direction, revealing a royal blue shirt and cream waistcoat beneath his dusty suit jacket. “Recognize that ditty, son?” the old man rasped in a tone indicating he harbored little hope that one as young as Jack would have any connection with the tune or the antiquated style in which the man had played it.
“Well, sir,” Jack said thoughtfully, “yes and no. Some of it sure sounded like The Entertainer to me, but I’ve never heard it played that way.”
The old piano player wheezed a laugh, his mouth opening wide to show surprisingly white, straight teeth and he exclaimed, “Why, we all played that thing in our own way, in our own voice if that makes sense to you. It was so popular we all knew it, but ol’ Joplin hadn’t really captured its full potential when he wrote it down. See, he’d played it for us up there at Turpin’s place in St. Louis and, well, Scott really wasn’t a great professor, so we took his rag and twisted it around to get the real emotion out of it. Some guys like Chauvin and Patterson would turn it into a real complicated piece like the virtuosos they were, but I like to showcase my chops with other tunes. I play this one in a thoughtful way so the real meaning comes out.”
Jack understood exactly what the old-timer meant by this last bit as he was always in search of the emotion and meaning in the music, although the names the piano player dropped so casually meant little to him. What really resonated was the fellow’s next observation.
“Every song has a story, young man; every song has a story. The piano player is just the doorway you look through to glimpse it.”
To be continued…