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James Scott: Classic Ragtime from Rare Piano Rolls

It is bad enough that the work of our great ragtime composers was treated as a passing fancy during their lifetimes; by now it is apparent that the revival of Joplin et al. during the ’70s was largely just another turn of the same screw. The classical aspects of Joplin’s rags were over-emphasized and such important projects as recording the oeuvres of the other two of ragtime’s “big three,” James Scott and Joe Lamb, wound up in the hands of pianists who sounded as if they had but brief acquaintance with the music. A revival that should have led to Jelly Roll Morton led where all roads lead in America, to Hollywood.

The truth about this music is too important for such trivialization. It is the first body of serious Afro-American composition. Modern jazz composers can learn as much from ragtime as classical composers can from Bach; it can teach serious listeners as much about the real American spirit as Bartok can about the Slavic.

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