Frank French and Scott Kirby, pianos
CD review by Jack Rummel
Something Doing / Belle of Louisville / Mr. Joe / Womba Bomba / Pastime (sic) no. 5 / Atlanta Rag / St. Louis Rag / New Orleans Joys / Kismet Eag (sic) / Broadway Rag / Dream Rag / Bucktown Buck.
When the original duo piano CD on Stomp Off (CD 1306) came out in 1996, I hailed it as "the ragtime recording to beat" for that year, and added that Frank French and Scott Kirby "have set the standard for twin-piano ragtime". I am pleased to say that in the years that followed, which saw the release of at least a half-dozen other fine two-piano discs, I believe my assessment has stood the test of time.
This release, on French's own Affinity label, corrals live performances of 10 of the 17 pieces that appeared on the Stomp Off CD and adds two previously unreleased tracks, Womba Bomba and Atlanta Rag. A live recording adds an element of excitement not usually found in a studio setting but diminishes the opportunities to edit any gaffes. However, the Bucktown Brothers were in fine form at the 1996 and 1997 Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festivals where these renditions were recorded, an assessment confirmed by the enthusiastic audience response to each selection.
The showstoppers from the first CD are all here in a wonderful concert hall ambience, yet the recorded sound is intimate enough to catch their heels stomping in unison on some of the rousers. They haven't changed the scoring appreciably but French does talk about a piece or two and even puts a comic intro on Bucktown Buck. What's missing are any sort of liner notes at all and the two introspective contemporary rags, At Midnight and Ravenna, that infused such a touch of romance to the original disc.
If you don't already own the original CD (still available from Stomp Off) and you favor the added pizzazz of a live recording, this disc would be a great way to add the twin piano wizardry of Scott Kirby and Frank French – something I believe belongs in every ragtime collection. Those who already have the Stomp Off CD will have to decide if they want live recordings of 10 repeated tracks in order to pick up Womba Bomba and Atlanta Rag. For me, I'm enjoying owning both.
Available for $18.00 postpaid from Frank French, 6420 Woodridge Ct., Citrus Heights, CA 95621. You can also phone or fax a credit card number to 916-863-0795, or order on the web at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/frankfrench2.