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1942-45

James P. Johnson Audio CD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

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When James P. Johnson made these solo recordings for Moe Asch's Folkways label, Asch gave him the freedom to record what he wished. The pianist took the opportunity to document some pre-jazz piano music, a few favorite tunes, some improvised blues, and piano reductions of his own unperformed concert works. It's a remarkable release, including among the early piano music Jesse Pickett's "The Dream," Scott Joplin's "Euphonic Sounds," and two blues by W.C. Handy. While Johnson's ambitions to mount an indigenous concert music, one melding jazz and ragtime rhythms with classical forms, were frustrated, you'd never know it from these vibrant performances of "Yamekraw--A Negro Rhapsody," "Jazzamine Concerto," and a fragment from "Jungle Drums." The 1996 CD issue includes eight previously unissued tracks. --Stuart Broomer

Product Description

Reissued with additional tracks and annotations in 1996 as Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 40812.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Jim's Left hand July 27 2001
Format:Audio CD
I found out about James P. Johnnson just recently and I'm a senior. Wow! This album has better sound than some others and a real long serious number which was later orchestrated. Johnson's playing is pure magic, as Duke Ellington says, and if you play piano yourself, you must hear his left hand! Never too much or too little, always supportive of the top line and always just right. Maybe I'm just in the first flush of enthusiasm about this guys stuff, but this makes me want a time machine. I'da like to ah bin there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Piano Jazz Feb. 19 2000
Format:Audio CD
James P. Johnson is one of the most influential and neglected figues in 20th century American music. Best known as the teacher of Fats Waller, he was the composer of "Charleston", THE song that exemplified the 1920s, a writer of serious orchestral works, a magnificent accompanist of Bessie Smith and others, and the leading figure in the Harlem stride piano style. As such, he influenced Ellington, Basie and Thelonious Monk amongst others.
He recorded extensively, but for a long time little of his material was available on CD. Classics has now completed a reasonably comprehensive eight volume reissue, which is a must for Johnson fans. This CD, however, encapsulates most of Johnson's genius in one disc.
The recordings, made for Asch, cover most facets of Johnson's career. His ability as a stride virtuoso is demonstrated in "Liza" and "Twilight Rag", his ragtime roots in Scott Joplin's "Euphonic Sounds", and his empathy for the blues in a number of tracks, the best being "Snowy Morning Blues", given two markedly different performances and the poignant "Blue Moods Sex".
His neglected serious compositions are demonstrated with "Yamecraw", "Jungle Drums" and "Jazzamine Concerto", all well worth hearing in the only recording opportunity Johnson ever received to air them. (They have since been rediscovered and recorded by the Concordia Orchestra, and are well worth hearing. They compare favourably with the grossly over-rated Gershwin).
All in all, this is a splendid disc that does justice to Johnson's multi-faceted genius. While it is a little short of full-blooded stride piano (why was Asch's version of "Carolina Balmoral" not included?), no one with more than a passing interestin jazz piano should be without it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Piano Jazz Feb. 19 2000
By B. D. Tutt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
James P. Johnson is one of the most influential and neglected figues in 20th century American music. Best known as the teacher of Fats Waller, he was the composer of "Charleston", THE song that exemplified the 1920s, a writer of serious orchestral works, a magnificent accompanist of Bessie Smith and others, and the leading figure in the Harlem stride piano style. As such, he influenced Ellington, Basie and Thelonious Monk amongst others.
He recorded extensively, but for a long time little of his material was available on CD. Classics has now completed a reasonably comprehensive eight volume reissue, which is a must for Johnson fans. This CD, however, encapsulates most of Johnson's genius in one disc.
The recordings, made for Asch, cover most facets of Johnson's career. His ability as a stride virtuoso is demonstrated in "Liza" and "Twilight Rag", his ragtime roots in Scott Joplin's "Euphonic Sounds", and his empathy for the blues in a number of tracks, the best being "Snowy Morning Blues", given two markedly different performances and the poignant "Blue Moods Sex".
His neglected serious compositions are demonstrated with "Yamecraw", "Jungle Drums" and "Jazzamine Concerto", all well worth hearing in the only recording opportunity Johnson ever received to air them. (They have since been rediscovered and recorded by the Concordia Orchestra, and are well worth hearing. They compare favourably with the grossly over-rated Gershwin).
All in all, this is a splendid disc that does justice to Johnson's multi-faceted genius. While it is a little short of full-blooded stride piano (why was Asch's version of "Carolina Balmoral" not included?), no one with more than a passing interestin jazz piano should be without it.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Jim's Left hand July 27 2001
By Michael F Heintz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I found out about James P. Johnnson just recently and I'm a senior. Wow! This album has better sound than some others and a real long serious number which was later orchestrated. Johnson's playing is pure magic, as Duke Ellington says, and if you play piano yourself, you must hear his left hand! Never too much or too little, always supportive of the top line and always just right. Maybe I'm just in the first flush of enthusiasm about this guys stuff, but this makes me want a time machine. I'da like to ah bin there.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creme de la creme Aug. 30 2007
By jive rhapsodist - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Beautiful! And beautifully presented, annotated, remastered...everything. By the way, I' d also like to hear the Asch Carolina Balmoral, but as far as I know, it remains unissued (the Blue Note one is awesome!). Jazzamine Concerto (which reappears, in part, at the end of the CD as Blues For Jimmy) is as deep as Stride gets. Such a great composition, and so movingly (not perfectly) played. The CD will explain why Johnson was considered the Dean. Waller is a more note-perfect pianist, with a unique drive, Willie the Lion has his amazing impressionism, but Johnson is the master. The extended work Yamekraw is not a great piece of music - too episodic to be - but it too is so moving. Funky, romantic and loveable. As is the whole CD.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delectable Music-making by a Great Pianist/Composer Nov. 12 2009
By Doug - Haydn Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This selection of the immortal James P. Johnson's playing was recorded during the first half of the forties for Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records. Johnson runs through a host of numbers streching across a broad historical time frame. (And speaking of streching, on many of these numbers we can hear his supernatural ease at spanning vast keyboard spaces - surely Johnson had some of the largest hands of his generation of pianists!) The music dates from the dawn of Ragtime back in the days of the 1893 Columbia Exposition and Jesse Pickett's "The Dream", to Scott Joplin's "Euphonic Blues", handled with great assurance, a model of how to 'swing' a rag's synocopation without altering the music's own intrinsic beat. Two W.C. Handy selections are included, "St. Louis Blues" and a 1922 work, "Aunt Hagar's Blues", where Johnson gives effortless examples of a fulsome variety of pianistic demands. Gershwin's big 1929 hit from "Show Girl", "Liza", proves a knockout, a fabulous performance, fittingly the opening recording on this Cd - a thrilling freedom floats the music effortlessly along.

Johnson's own compositions make the majority of choices...Asch gallantly left Johnson to record pretty much whatever he wished, and we hear on this Cd examples taken from a wealth of material Johnson left, with the composer playing versions of twelve of his pieces, including piano versions of otherwise unrecorded larger concert works, "Yamekraw", the slow movement to his "Jazzamine Concerto", and a reduced "Jungle Drums".

The notes for this Cd reflect enormous care and fully cover the sourcing issues for the recordings chosen for inclusion. Just great, great notes, with a running discussion covering each selection on the lower half of the booklet, and more general articles above on the genesis of the Folways recordings and Johnson's career. An enormous amount of time was spent on this issue of one of America's finest musical artists. It deserves to be much better known!

One of the marks of a great pianist for me is whether I can listen for any length of time without growing tired. James P. Johnson passes my simple litmus test for pianists going away with flying colors. The enormous range of styles Johnson displays mastery of us is impressive enough for any pianist. Add to this the constant imagainative touches Johnson brings to his music-making, how he enlivens everything he plays with an inexhaustible spontaniety and joy and you have someone you just can't hear often enough. It's not hard to imagine Johnson back in the Twenties at some Harlem rent party, playing long into the night while the gifted musicians hanging around settle down into a state of pure contented listening bliss.
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