Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Please Don't Shoot the Piano Player
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Classical
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James Yelvington | USA | 03/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For lovers of feel-good music or the Gemütlichkeit of sessions standing around the player piano and singing those grand old favorites this CD should be a gem. Also those interested in bygone musical technologies should get a kick out of these pieces "performed" on a Steinway Upright Player Piano made in Hamburg, Germany, in 1912.
The instrument seems in uncommonly good condition for its age: no apparent mechanical, tone, or intonation difficulties interfere with the presentation of these 26 examples of automated music as it was heard around the turn of the century and subsequently (even as recently as today, though increasingly rarely).
The music is lively and the arrangements are good, even occasionally spectacular. The opening tune, "Hello My Baby," is a happy classic which comes off very well via this medium. Others I particular like include "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Lady Be Good," "Dark Town Strutters Ball," "Oh You Beautiful Doll," "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "For Me and My Gal," "Bumble Boogie," "Pretty Baby," "Heart of My Heart," and "Yes Sir That's My Baby."
The liner notes are brief, but give a good historical summary of the player piano phenomenon in America. They do not, however, offer any details on the piano rolls used here. (Some piano rolls were cut mechanically, while others were cut live by various famous, less famous, or even unknown, pianists. Some, if not most, rolls were post-edited by publishers. We know that Gershwin cut a number of piano rolls, and even such serious pianists as Rachmaninov did also.)
However they were produced, the rolls played here show ample command of the instrument, the style, and the idiom. Just close your eyes and you can imagine yourself in a smoke-filled speakeasy drinking illegal booze and listening to a talented piano player (I almost said "pianist") rippling off the popular tunes of the day.
As to the human side of these performances, though we don't know who cut the rolls, we are told who's pumping the piano: Roger Morrison. Apparently there is some art to pumping, for I remember my grandmother telling me as a kid that her neighbors reported they could tell when it was she who was pumping, and not my grandfather. Supposedly her musical training came through in the way the rolls sounded. (Sorry, Grandpa.)
In any case, if you enjoy musical nostalgia, you'll probably like this CD and appreciate the rarity of what it offers. I'm very glad to have it in my collection, and I invariably get a smile on my face when I play it.