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Two Recording by the new Columbian Brass Band, George Foreman Conductor
Thatsum Rag! - Dorian 93165
A Trip to Coney Island - Dorian 80153
by Drake the Bandmaster

     Delightful! That’s the one word I would like to use to describe the new CD Thatsum Rag!. Delightful! Twenty rags from the first two decades of the century played by the fabulous New Columbian Brass Band under George Foreman. I’ve been collecting original 78 rpm band recordings of ragtime tunes for years and have been fortunate enough to share some of these with you on Drake’s Village Brass Band. I’m always thrilled to find a modern recording of one of these ragtime numbers, but they have certainly been few and far between. Since the 1970’s and the great ragtime revival America has recaptured a significant part of its heritage by recording and performing ragtime. However, one major part of the original ragtime movement has been mostly ignored - the role of Concert Bands in performing and spreading ragtime all over the world. Now Mr. Foreman has put together this outstanding collection for which I am very greatful. The band performs from period arrangements and has the style down pat. The collection includes compositions by Arthur Pryor, Ave Hoizmann, J. Bodewalt Lampe, Percy Wenrich and others and rags with such delightful names as, "Razzazza Mazzazza," "That Tired Rag," "Warm Doughnuts" and the title number, "Thatsum Rag." While the composers and titles may not ring ragtime bells of recognition (unless like myself you’re fascinated with the byways of early American popular music) let me assure you that as stated before, this music is just delightful. The rags represented here are not those of the "serious" or "classical" school of ragtime represented by the big three, Scott Joplin, James Scott and James Lamb, instead they represent the popular songwriters embracing of this unique style of music. While some will turn their noses up at these compositions, branding them as watered down or inferior, I just love them and embrace them for what they are. They are catchy, joyful tunes written with ragtime rhythms that were perfect in their day for dancing or toe-tapping and were purchased and listened to and performed by a large appreciative public for many years. They are a part of our musical heritage. Buy this disc and enjoy.
     This is the second disc that Foreman and his band has made for Dorian Recordings. The first is just as delightful and as highly recommended by yours truly. That disc is entitled A Trip to Coney Island - Descriptive Overtures from America’s Golden Age. Here once again Foreman has given us a real treasure, presenting superlative recordings of forgotten music from the dark corners of early band music. In this case we have six longer descriptive fantasias including Tobani’s "A Trip to Coney Island," D.W. Reeves "The Evening Call," Andrew Herman’s "Columbus," C.L. Barnhouse’s "The Battle of Shiloh," T.H. Rollinson’s "The Hunting of the Snark," and Albert Sweets’s "The Battle of San Juan Hill." These pieces use musical quotes and original music to tell their tales and would surely have drawn smiles of delight in their day. I particularly like the Coney Island number, with its fireworks at the end, and Herman’s use of Wagner’s "The Flying Dutchman" music to depict the beginning of Columbus’s journey, sort of a strange musical oxymoron. Foreman opts to tastefully add sound effects such as fireworks and canon fire when called for in this recording. Bands of those days would have certainly used some sound effects, as evidenced by early 78 rpm recordings of descriptive pieces. Again the playing is fabulous and the sound is vibrant and warm and detailed. For both CD’s excellent notes have been included. Join me for Drake’s Village Brass Band on Monday’s, November 15 and 22 at 7:00 PM as we explore these discs.

Copyright©WWUH: November/December Program Guide, 1999

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