David Thomas Roberts, piano
CD review by Jack Rummel
Waterloo Girls / Camille / Kreole / Frederic And The Coast / Madison Heights Girl / Poplarville / Through The Bottomlands / Pinelands Memoir / For Kansas City / The Girl Who Moved Away / Mississippi Brown Eyes / The Early Life Of Larry Hoffer / The South Mississippi Glide / Roberto Clemente / Maria Antonieta Pons.
Except for the fact that the composer would never accept such a cliché, this compact disc might well be titled "David Thomas Roberts' Greatest Hits". Certainly most of my favorites are here and eleven of the selections replace the previous vinyl LP versions, many of which had unfortunate technical limitations.
For those who have lamented Roberts' evolution from ragtime into more expanded works (i.e., "New Orleans Streets Suite"), this disc disc will be a sight for sore eyes. The truth, however, is that his sojourn into ancillary, ragtime-related compositions is only an expansion of his ever-increasing palette, but his roots have always been firmly anchored in ragtime, both classical and folk, and this album is truly a celebration of that fact.
The intimate setting of this recording evoked emotional memories of my first exposure to Roberts' music at a private home concert in Denver in 1981. If you can imagine yourself, as I was that day, sitting a scant few feet from the keyboard listening to the most mind-blowing original ragtime I've ever heard, then you will know what to expect when you listen to the incredible fidelity of this CD.
Roberts has included a well-conceived mix of slow- and faster-tempo pieces, coupled with his usual wide range of emotions. From coquettish rapture (Waterloo Girls) to foreboding darkness (Poplarville), from elegiac respect (Roberto Clemente) to restrained intensity (South Mississippi Glide), from cautious optimism (Frederic and the Coast) to his special treatment of folk ragtime (Kreole, Pinelands Memoir, Madison Heights Girl and more), the stirring energy in these works will tug at you like no others. Should you wish to explore any of the scores of these compositions, the good news is that they are all to be found in his two folios, the 1992 Volume I and the soon-to-be-published Volume II.
As has become Roberts' standard, the recording is accompanied by extensive liner notes, in this case a 12-page booklet with full color photos front and back, detailing not only insights into each piece but also much evocative prose that explores his emotional ties to the earth and to the human carnival upon it -- all of which is expressed in the musical language of his ragtime.
Unless your ragtime tastes are hopelessly rooted in the past, you should invest some of your time and consciousness in this outstanding recording by a composer whom many consider to be the finest voice of ragtime in this half-century. For those of us already familiar with the works of David Thomas Roberts, we won't be able to add it to our library fast enough!
Available for $16.50 plus $2.00 shipping from PianoMania Music Publishing, 8300 Sierra College Blvd., Suite D, Roseville, CA 95661 or call (916) 791-8079.