*Contemporary Piece.* Arrangement of the jazz standard by Benjamin Thorn.
1. 12th Street Rag
_Score 7 pp. Parts 2 pp._
OMP039 and OMP040 Scott Joplin, arr Benjamin Thorn, The Entertainer Euday L. Bowman, arr Benjamin Thorn, Twelfth Street Rag
The keyboard rags of Scott Joplin present some interesting scoring challenges for recorders, the most vexing of which is the creation of interesting parts out of the stride bass accompaniments. This particular problem has been solved with a greater or lesser degree of success in Alan Davis's Scott Joplin Album (Novello 120594) and Ross Winter's arrangement of New Rag (Nova NM 301). This new edition of The Entertainer by Benjamin Thorn does a better-than-average job of solving this problem by having all the instruments except the sopranino share in the after-beats. Unfortunately, as tends to the case more often than not, the tenor ends up with a relatively dull part and the bass is forced to be both bass and accompaniment. The main melody lies mostly in the sopranino, frequently doubled at the octave by either a soprano or alto. Because the melody rarely descends into the staff, the result (to my ears, at least) is too shrill to be comfortable. After a couple of hearings with different groups, my recommendation would be that this arrangement should be played by a small ensemble with a sopranino player of above-average ability to minimise intonation problems.
Euday Bopman, composer of Twelfth Street Rag, does not feature prominently in histories of early jazz. The Gospel, Blues and Jazz volume from New Grove mentions him only as one of a number of Eastern U.S. composers writing a flashier style of rags than those of Joplin and his Midwestern contemporaries. Gunther Schuller does not mention him at all in his history of early jazz. Twelfth Street Rag is probably Bowman's best-known composition and seems to be typical of the three-strain rag common to this school of composers. While the instrumentation of this arrangement is the same as that of the Joplin rag above, the results are far less satisfactory. The melodic burden is again on the sopranino, usually in a trio with the soprano and first alto. This works fine through the first two strains. In the third section, however, a near-ostinato on C-C#-D above the staff presents some serious technical and intonation problems. That and two other problems make this piece more suited to advanced ensembles. The first is extended range: basses are frequently called on to play up to high E and altos have many high Gs. The second problem is that the tenor is regularly required to play low C#/Db. Unless the tenor recorder has this key, it would be advisable to have the tenor part doubled by bass to cover these very frequent chromatic passages at the bottom of the tenor range.
My recommendation: pick up Joplin (it's a winner with a keen-eared sopranino player), but look very carefully at the abilities of your group before buying Bowman.
John Nelson, American Recorder, January 2002