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James P. Johnson 1920-1923

James P. Johnson: “Carolina Shout” (OKeh, 1921)

The Dead Sea Scroll of jazz piano. (Literally a scroll; a generation of pianists learned the song from its player-piano roll.) Johnson’s performance of his self-composed rag codified the Harlem “stride” flavor of syncopation, ornamentation, and improvisation. It inspired Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, and Jaki Byard; in the likes of Jason Moran and Christian Sands, its spirit lives on today. MICHAEL J. WEST

Learn more about “Carolina Shout” on Apple Music.