Gunther Schuller's distinguished career has included a crucial role in the third-stream movement, which sought to fuse jazz and classical composition and flourished in the late 1950s and early '60s. Schuller also wrote a series of brilliant musicological studies of early jazz. As musical director of the New England Ragtime Ensemble, he has brought very high standards to performance of classic ragtime compositions, beginning with the 1973 recording The Art of Scott Joplin, devoted to the form's most famous composer. The Art of the Rag, recorded in 1989, takes a different tack, mixing pieces of classic ragtime from the beginning of the 20th century with contemporary compositions that work within the form's structural and rhythmic patterns. Whether the work is ancient or modern, the Ensemble brings high precision, genuine vigor, and a fresh luster to the material. Among the fascinating period pieces are relatively well-known works by Joplin, including "Heliotrope Bouquet," and by Jelly Roll Morton, whose "Black Bottom Stomp" and "Grandpa's Spells" seem to travel back in time from their jazz origins. Less well-known but equally deserving of attention are James Reese Europe's "Castle Walk" and "Castle House Rag." Among the modern works, Schuller's own "Sandpoint Rag" and Robert Carriker's "Mattapan Rag" sit most comfortably in the form. --Stuart Broomer
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(5 out of 5 stars)
"once again gunther schuller brings us the beautiful sound of orchestrated ragtime. but instead of focusing on Scott Joplin, he mixes in modern day rags. Mattapan Rag, composed by the tubist, shows how ragtime can be effective outside of the typical ABACD format established in early rags. a great suprise is the Smokehouse Blues. while not a "rag" it does use the ompah base and syncopated treble and therefore is very welcome. it also shows how southern ragtime is much dofferent from midwestern."
A delightful toe-tapper
Stephen J. Friedl | Yorba Linda, California USA | 07/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard the New England Ragtime Ensemble on PBS many years ago, and the wonderful sounds from these talented musicians has stuck in my head ever since. The 17 tracks on this album are generally quite up-tempo, though the "slower" songs certainly wouldn't qualify as ballad (and hence would not be ragtime).I was surprised to find any ragtime collection that does not include Joplin's "The Entertainer", but they have clearly not been wanting for good material to fill a CD -- every one is a winner. My favorites are Rob Carriker's "Matapan Rag" and a delightful (non-piano!) arrangement of "Dizzy Fingers".Any fan of ragtime will love this album. I did."