The Terra Verde Corner

Buon Ritmo Sempre Marcato
Frank French, piano

CD review by Jack Rummel

Affinity 1022

Womba Bomba / Centennial Cakewalk / Banjo No. 3 / La Cumbia / Arabesque / Frevo / Tumbadores / Belle of Louisville / Bucktown Buck / Candela / Cocinero / Bolero / Campo Criollo / Jasmine.

Frank French is a musician's musician. He has studied, performed and recorded extensive works by Bach. He has immersed himself in the music of Gottschalk, assuming Gottschalk's persona while performing those works. He was probably the first one to introduce the music of Ernesto Nazareth to ragtime audiences. He has recorded the complete rags of James Scott. His two-piano recordings with Scott Kirby practically define the genre. His 1990 rag, Belle of Louisville, has become enormously popular and has been called "the 'Maple Leaf Rag' of the 1990s." He is also a pioneer composer and one of the principal architects of the new offshoot of ragtime, "terra verde."

This CD, which is subtitled "Original Works for Piano Composed and Performed by Frank French," represents much of French's output of the last decade - an eclectic mix of pieces reflecting influences from the many areas of music which he has explored. While he has released some of these compositions on previous discs, these are all-new recordings, done in a concert hall and capturing him when he was truly at one with his music. The recorded sound is exceptional and the title, "good rhythm always accentuated," accurately depicts what is in store for the listener.

The infectious ragtime sound of Belle of Louisville is complemented nicely by the Big Easy, Mortonesque feel of Bucktown Buck. Both are in contrast to Centennial Cakewalk, which traces its ancestry to the late 19th century works of William Christopher O'Hare. From that same century comes the influence of Gottschalk, reflected admirably in French's Banjo No. 3. A captivating salon piece, Arabesque, leads to a pair of very rhythmic numbers, Frevo and Tumbadores, which illustrate French's mastery of the complex meters of New World Music. This complexity is perhaps best displayed in the disc's opening cut, Womba Bomba, and in La Cumbia, both of which have become justly deserved concert favorites.

The remaining five tracks, Candela, Cocinero, Bolero, Campo Criollo and Jasmine, make up French's "Toca con Clave - Creole Suite for Piano," which he composed in 1997 following an extensive visit to Cuba. Taken together, they comprise one of the most lyrical and rhythmic, yet intensely personal works that you will hear.

The music on this disc is outstanding, offering a varied palette by one of today's outstanding composers. There are no liner notes, but ample analyses are included in the folios of the scores, which are available separately. As the 1990s closed out, Frank French became an important voice in the fields of New Ragtime, New World and Terra Verde music - a voice that is sure to continue into the 21st century.

Available for $18.00 postpaid from Frank French, 6420 Woodridge Court, Citrus Heights, CA 95621. Both folios plus the CD are available for $59.95 postpaid.

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