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Zez Confrey: Piano Rolls and Scores
Zez Confrey, Fred Fisher, Thurlow Weed Lieurance
Zez Confrey: Piano Rolls and Scores
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (23) - Disc #1


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The Rolls Royce of Zez Confrey recordings.
Yul S. Pariah | Baltimore, Maryland USA | 04/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you already know and enjoy Zez Confrey's music, this disc belongs in your collection. If Confrey is unknown to you, this disc still belongs in your collection, unless of course you find joyful, exuberant piano music to be repugnant.For those new to Confrey, here's a brief description:Edward Elzear Confrey (known to all as Zez) was a self-described composer of novelty piano music, his way of trying to describe music that was at once influenced by ragtime, early jazz, popular songs, and classical composers, particularly Debussy and MacDowell. His music rarely if ever aspires to emotional profundity, but its sheer joy, bounce, and tunefulness make it hard to put down once you've started, whether as listener or pianist. As an amateur pianist, I've been playing Zez Confrey's music for 20 years. The reactions I have gotten from people over the years have been consistently the same; "Wow! Who wrote that?", and "Are there recordings of this music I can buy?". Now, this disc gives me an easy answer to the second question.This disc is Artis Wodehouse's fourth disc devoted to her amazing humanized piano rolls. The first two covered a good cross-section of George Gershwin's piano rolls, while a third was a collection of piano rolls by Jelly Roll Morton. This is easily her finest work since the first "Gershwin plays Gershwin" disc in 1993.Zez Confrey, like his contemporaries George Gershwin and Jelly Roll Morton, left behind a well-rounded collection of acoustic gramophone recordings as well as paper piano rolls. The least sophisticated of these paper rolls merely captured the notes that the pianist played and nothing more. Once the roll was published and sold, it was the job of the consumer, operating his or her own reproducing piano, to mechanically add pedaling, rubato, and dynamics as he or she saw fit. However, the most sophisticated reproducing rolls captured not only the notes but the pedaling, rubato, and dynamics used by the pianist, often with uncanny accuracy. All paper rolls allowed the pianist the option of post-production editing, e.g., removing wrong notes, and in popular music such as this, adding dazzling "third hand" counterpoint effects that made the end result unplayable by a human pianist. Confrey was one the best at this, and he uses this technique liberally throughout the rolls on this disc. (For those of you familiar with Confrey's "Kitten on the Keys" or "Dizzy Fingers" in their standard published versions, you're in for a treat once you hear Confrey's souped up three-handed versions presented here.) Still, even the best of these paper rolls played back on the best reproducing pianos could never be mistaken by an astute listener for a human being (two-handed or otherwise). There was always a discernible gap between playing produced in the human realm and that of the mechanical realm, that is until relatively recently. The explosion of digital technology has allowed such things as computerized reproducing pianos like the Yamaha Disklavier to become a readily available reality. Recordings made and played back on such pianos are virtually indistinguishable from live human performances. It wasn't long before people like Artis Wodehouse starting exploring ways to apply this technology to the old paper rolls, finally enabling listeners to experience what it might have been like to hear pianists like Gershwin, Morton, and Confrey recorded in the flesh, and in modern sound. By taking the information encoded on these old paper rolls and feeding it into a Yamaha Disklavier system, she has been able narrow the gap between human playing and mechanical playing to the point of near nonexistence. Through careful study of Confrey's actual playing from acoustic recordings, Wodehouse has softened the mechanical edges, painstakingly adding those qualities that distinguished Confrey's playing in the flesh, effectively making each roll indistinguishable from an actual human performance.On the first Gershwin disc from 1993, several of the rolls she chose had been previously recorded in their original paper roll form. Having heard these original paper roll recordings, listening to Artis Wodehouse's humanized versions of these same rolls was like seeing an old film before and then after restoration. In short, it was a revelation.This new Zez Confrey disc easily lives up to these high standards Wodehouse set for herself, indeed this disc may even set the bar higher. This time around, not only is Wodehouse working from two different types of paper rolls, she is actually playing some of the pieces herself, works that Confrey did not record, but that deserve a place on any disc of Confrey's music. The joyful bounce and rhythmic snap of her playing so perfectly matches Confrey's own playing that it becomes impossible to tell which tracks are hers and which are Confrey's. The result is an amazingly seamless and unified blend of musicianship, scholarship, technological know-how, with an astute understanding of the individual elements that made Confrey's playing unique. Whether as pianist or digital editor, with this CD, Wodehouse has done more for Confrey's music than has anyone before her. The results are well worth hearing."
Remarkable evocation of a bygone style
Yul S. Pariah | 07/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In some ways, Artis Wodehouse's Disklavier realization of Zez Confrey's lighter-than-air pianistic joyrides is an even more impressive accomplishment than her previous restorations of Gershwin and Jelly Roll Morton piano rolls. Confrey's novelty style seems the truest musical embodiment of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is fascinating to hear the spirit of the 20s come to life in such a nerve titillating way. Especially remarkable are the selections hand played by Ms. Wodehouse into the Disklavier. Though they are designated on the jacket liner notes, by ear it is impossible to tell the difference-- a tribute to the complete success and seamless integrity of her stylistic resurrection."
Wodehouse the magnificent
Ann Evans | Montclair, NJ USA | 04/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've heard Artis Wodehouse play in other venues and she is an artist of the most amazing versatility and profound knowledge, not to mention astounding energy. This CD is exciting to listen to, friends play in their workplaces to add zip to life there. It will bring you tremendous enjoyment."