Some might argue that Lorraine Feather has never met a stride pianist she didn’t like, but Feather’s intense enthusiasm for pianist Stephanie Trick, her partner in the freshly minted Nouveau Stride, is fully justified. Indeed, first-time listeners of their Fourteen are advised to proceed directly to track 10, Trick’s solo romp through J.P. Johnson’s “Caroline Shout,” to appreciate the young St. Louisan’s prowess. The 13 remaining tracks all feature Feather’s deliciously clever wordplay.
Johnson is the album’s cornerstone. His “Mule Walk” is transformed into “Bat Boogie,” an homage to winged rodents, his “Keep Off the Grass” is reinvented as the gleeful “Rules of the Park,” and his “Caprice Rag” is re-imagined as “Pour on the Heat,” a sort of Stride Lyrics for Dummies primer. Feather and Trick also draw from the songbooks of lesser-known ragtime tunesmiths Robin Frost and Artie Matthews, turn Willie “The Lion” Smith’s “Spanish Rag” into the fiery “The Tango Lesson,” and bring the proceedings more up-to-date with the wittingly saccharine “Dreamily” and breakneck “The Ride,” both based on works by pianist John Novacek.
Rounding out the playlist are four selections that Feather fans will recognize from earlier projects. “Timeless Rag,” “New York City Drag” and “California Street,” all based on Fats Waller tunes, were included on her 2001 Waller salute, and the wonderfully witty “Imaginary Guy,” based on Duke Ellington’s “Dancers in Love,” first showed up on 2004’s Such Sweet Thunder. If nothing else, they demonstrate how favorable Trick compares to Dick Hyman, Mike Lang and Shelly Berg, Feather’s estimable accompanists from those previous outings.