All MIDI file contents and Wave/MP3 Audio recordings are Copyright ©1998 through under the 1998 Electronic Copyright Laws by Bill Edwards and Siggnal Sounds. All Sheet Music and Album Cover images here have been restored or enhanced by Bill Edwards, and only the original sources are in the Public Domain (except where noted). Unauthorized duplication or distribution of these proprietary files or associated digital recordings is a violation of copyright and patent law. They are for personal use and enjoyment of individuals only, and may be used on other sites only upon request for permission to do so. This site has been optimized for HTML5/CSS3 browsers released in 2012 or later with a recommended minimum 1024x768 and optimal 1280x900 monitor resolution or better.
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UPDATES - 08/04/2016: There were requests, and I heard you loud and clear. Too clear. When I converted many of the MIDI files to MP3 sound files last year, a great many of them, due to the conversion algorithm at the site I used, came out underpowered at the very least, averaging 35% of their full volume capability. Compared with CD tracks that I downgraded to MP3 for site listening, they overall experience was uneven and unpredictable at best. Well, I took this to heart and spent three days in my copious (right) spare time, raising the volume on all of these errant files. In some cases, for which I apologize, it also meant that noise and artifacts were amplified. However, you are getting these for free, so I hope that works out in the end. If you want the higher quality sound, please help support the site and improve your commutes by buying CDs from my... oh wait, I should tell you about the new store.
I am at over the 98% mark upgrading the on-line store, to which I am hoping to eventually add downloads to the CDs. Please have patience on this as it has been a ground-up reconstruction project, which will result in a visually pleasant and logical navigation model. I am working on algorithms for licensing and streaming at this point. In relatively short order the NEW RagPiano.com will be complete from tip to tail. There will be high resolution samples for every single track that are pulled from the originals, not dumbed down, so you can hear for yourself the quality you'll be getting. Also, the store overall will be faster, more intuitive, and require only one trip to a PayPal screen rather than after each selection. Beta testers will be giving it a run-through over the next two weeks, so I hope to provide an error-free streamlined experience. New products will be coming out as well, all related to ragtime and sheet music. My next posting in September (I Hope) will announce the new store and provide the links.
With the exception of the old store, which is nearly gone, the entire site is now up to 2016 HTML5/CSS3 standards, and has even been tested extensively in the new Windows 10 Microsoft Edge browser for compatibility. Social Media links have also been added for the articles and biographies, which I encourage you to partake of as it will potentially bring more people into the fold as they find some hopefully fascinating content on the ragtime era and the music. On the MIDI files still available — Many of my performances were never converted to MIDI, but have been added into the mix. IN ESSENCE - if you have not been here for quite some time, EVERY TRACK IS NEW IN A SENSE. This includes the song sections, most of which now have vocal performances.
UPCOMING NEW CD RELEASE: I am continuing my "Z" series, which to date has yielded RAGZ, BLUZ, TANGOZ and DUETZ. The 2016 offering is STRIDZ, which came out in May, but is currently being remixed for improvements. Stay tuned.
What's New! Latest Additions for 2016.
Following a new August, 2016 addition by Harry P. Guy, it's back to the BLUZ. Included are three of my most commented on tracks from my BLUZ CD of 2011, which also received some of the best reviews I had thankfully ever heard. A lot of care and research and passion and a modicum of talent as well were all parts of this album which includes blues and blue songs from the 1910s into the 1930s. I also included family members as part of the ensemble, including my stepdaughter Kelsey Pederson in an engaging performance of Am I Blue, my sons Alex and Zachary playing drums and tuba respectively on some tracks, and my wife Pamela, who joined me for a fine clarinet solo on Canal Street Blues. First in the queue however, from an earlier album, comes an additional early popular piece, The Snakey Blues. It is contradictory, of course, to be happy about blues, so I will attempt to remain indifferent to the quality of these tracks, which I hope you enjoy - but not so much that you aren't a little blue.
Pearl of the Harem
Guy was one of the most celebrated of Detroit's early batch of ragtime composers. A native of Ohio, and for a short time in Texas, he ended up making the future motor city his home for the bulk of his life. Guy, along with fellow composer Fred S. Stone
, was largely responsible for the considerable black musician's union formed in Detroit. He was equally adept at syncopated waltzes such as Echoes of the Snowball Club
, and melodic songs and cakewalks. This unusual work conveys the notion that Americans had at that time about music of the Middle East and Asia, much of that coming from the 1893 World Columbian Exposition
in Chicago on the midway. Even if it is not musically accurate, this tone poem clearly conveys his sense of melodic line and contrast, particularly in the trio. The repeated bass patterns were often interchangeable for a time between music of Asian lands and those of Native Americans, with the harmonies distinguishing between the two. This became a fairly popular intermezzo, and a favorite of noted banjo player Harry Van Epps
. This performance his a little more variety infused into it than the score suggests, and hopefully comes across as a viable piece for a silent film track.
The Snakey Blues - An Etude in Ragtime
Will Nash - 1915
Will Nash was a pianist in W.C. Handy's
traveling band in 1915, and submitted this ragtime blues (subtitled "An Etude in Ragtime") to his boss. Handy subsequently put into print under his own label, and it soon became a moderate success, albeit only on one piano roll from that time. This folk-influenced piece shares some stylistic elements of Artie Matthews' Weary Blues
of that same year, including early stirrings of what would become the boogie or boogie woogie style which would grow out of Texas. Both the A section and the trio were comprised of the increasingly prominent 12-bar blues pattern. Of interest here is the trio, which is an innovative blues in thirds, one of the earliest of its kind. The final section, a fourth strain in a blues piece being very unusual for that time, was based on an earlier tune titled Fare Thee, Honey, Fare Thee Well
, which dated back to the beginning of the century. This was one of the first pieces that Handy and his band, presumably with Nash at the piano, recorded in 1917. It actually gained more popularity in the 1960s and 1970s among ragtime and blues pianists. As for the title, "Snakey" is most likely derived from the description of a kind of seductive dance that had been gaining popularity on stage as well as in bordellos of the time, but dated back to as early as 1893 with Little Egypt
at the Chicago Columbian Exposition.
Mamie Desdunes Dugue and
Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton
In his 1938 recordings at the Library of Congress, sessions that were implemented by historian Alan Lomax, Jelly Roll Morton spoke of his early influences, one of which was described as thus:
…among the first blues that I've ever heard, happened to be a woman, that lived next door to my godmother's in the Garden District. Her name was Mamie Desdunes [Dey-doon or Des-doon]. On her right hand, she had her two middle fingers, between her forefingers, cut off, and she played with the three. So she played a blues like this all day long, when she first would get up in the morning…
Then Morton proceeded to play what is the basis for this track. Her full name was actually a New Orleans Creole, Mary Celina Mamie Desdunes Dugue, the last appendage courtesy of her common-law husband, warehouse worker George Dugue. According to a 1949 interview with trumpeter Bunk Johnson:
… She was pretty good looking — quite fair and with a nice head of hair. She was a hustling woman. A blues-singing poor girl. Used to play pretty passable piano around them dance halls on Perdido Street. When Hattie Rogers or Lulu White would put it out that Mamie was going to be singing at her place, the white men would turn out in bunches and them whores would clean up.
There is no indication that Mamie was actually a prostitute, and given her known history and address, it seems unlikely that she worked in the Storyville district in any capacity other than as a performer. She died in late 1911 at age 32, and would have been largely forgotten if not for Morton. At best, this might be a paraphrase of the simple blues pattern she played, owing to her disfigured right hand, with some of Morton infused into. The lyrics are typical of the time for New Orleans, with some portions common to a number of blues songs. This performance looks to take the subtle aspects of the blues piece - successfully exploited by pianist Butch Thompson
in his Daring 88 recording of the work - and combine it with a reading of the lyrics in my best attempt to put some desperation into them, the final result also released on my 2011 album Bluz
Am I Blue?
Harry Akst (M), Grant Clarke (L) - 1929
Introduced in 1929 in the first "All Talking, All Natural Color" [as best as two-strip Technicolor™ could provide] feature length film, On with the Show
, a Warner Brothers release, Am I Blue
became nearly an instant classic, and while not an actual blues song, remains one of the most recorded ballads, even more than eight decades after it was issued. From the time that both Ethel Waters
and Annette Hanshaw
recorded it in 1929, it has been covered by artists of both sexes and many races, ranging from Nat King Cole
and Billie Holiday
(with a truncated verse) to Cher
and Sue Keller
. Clarke managed to capture a sense of pain and despair, bordering on suicide, in the sung narration of a relationship gone wrong, further bolstered by Akst's poignant and well-paced melody. In fact, the suicidal aspect was a bit strong for audiences at the beginning of the Great Depression, so the second verse, when sung at all, was soon supplanted with something more benign, even for the earliest recordings. Originally written from the standpoint of a woman, it has been modified for either gender over the years. As for the talented lyricist, Grant Clarke died at age 40 less than two years after this song was introduced. Akst continued in a mildly successful career writing for movies and radio. This more recent entry into the Am I Blue
universe, featuring a rather blue and somewhat exasperated Kelsey Pederson (before she found true love and happiness in marriage), includes the original dark and angry second verse, rarely heard among all of the renditions captured through the years.
Canal Street Blues
Joseph "King" Oliver
and Louis Armstrong - 1923
Considered by many to be one of the most dynamic bits of duet work between Joe Oliver and his young protégé, Louis Armstrong, Canal Street Blues
, which existed pretty much as a recording for a long time, was actually a sort of borrowed blues, as were so many from that era. The first theme contained licks that Oliver had emulated before, and had been performed by other Chicago jazz bands. It was the B strain, however, that Oliver derived largely from the 1892 scared song The Holy City
, and which was also paraphrased in Chimes Blues
recorded around the same time. Canal Street Blues
is named after a famous thoroughfare in New Orleans, Louisiana, which happened to separate the downtown rail station from the infamous Storyville district, latter of which was closed in 1917. It is credited to two of that city's natives, Oliver and Armstrong, although in a sense, clarinetist Johnny Dodds had some role in shaping the overall feel of the tune in his solos. For this take, which employs both of my sons, features my wife, Pamela, as clarinetist, who is calling more on Firehouse Five Plus Two/Kid Ory player George Probert than Dodds in her own solos. With Alex on drums and Zachary on tuba, we come up with a small piece of New Orleans played Virginia style, but with a degree of regard and authenticity, and certainly a modicum of musical joy.
Bejeiro: Tango Brasileiro
Ernesto Nazareth - 1893
Nazareth, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was a serious music student from an early age, having been initially trained on the piano by his mother. Even after she died in 1873 when he was only ten, Nazareth chose to continue under some notable Latin-American instructors, learning enough along the way to start composing when he was sixteen. Even at that, it was not until 1893, when Ernesto turned 30, that his first serious volume of work emerged. Among the compositions released that year by Casa [House of] Vieira Machado, Brejeiro
(sometimes seen in print as Bregerio
) was a standout. While many of his later pieces from the mid-1890s forward had much in common with the form and structure of American piano ragtime, often with the two cultures blended musically, this earlier work is a short joyous rondo in A B A form. At that, it quickly achieved fame outside of South America, having been issued in the United States, Europe, and Australia. While it would be two more decades before the tango was widely adopted (usually in the form of a habanera) in the United States, this charming rhythmic tango still represented the characteristic sound of Brazil, and opened many doors for the talented composer. The cover for this edition was issued by Joseph W. Stern in 1914. This live performance has very little embellishment, as the original was well-scored, and the interpretation therefore feels naturally easy.
Ernesto Nazareth - 1909/1910
There are many parallels between ragtime and South American tangos of the early 20th century, and a great many of them were found in the music of Brazilian Ernesto Nazareth
, a capable composer but troubled individual. As early as 1909, when this piece was written, he was hired to play at the Odeon Cinema in Sao Paulo. Odeon has a Latin root which essentially means theater, in the context of an entertainment venue. Within a short time, audiences filled the Odeon to hear Nazareth play more so than to watch the one and two reelers, many imported from the United States, that he was hired to accompany. For the theater and its proprietors he wrote this engaging tune. The opening section consists of a left hand melody for the most part, arguably with a vague transition into the right for the last four bars. I add a little counter line below it in the repeat for variety. The B section goes into something more like a choro or pseudo-tango rhythm with an engaging descending chord progression. The trio is full of contrasts which I try to bring out here. This piece was mildly popular during Nazareth's lifetime, which ended in personal tragedy. However, it was not until the avant-garde age of recordings from the late 1950s into the 1960s that it suddenly appeared on many Latin-themed recordings, making it his most recorded and listened to piece overall. Given the structure and some of the rhythms that give it indirect associations with American ragtime, it is not unusual to hear it even in this century played at ragtime and arts festivals around the United States and beyond.
In the early 1910s, and more so with the rise in popularity of
Vernon and Irene Castle
a couple of years into the decade, the tango and rhythmic pieces associated with it became very much in vogue in the United States, and many of even the most straight-laced composers of popular music took a stab at composing something in the genre. No straighter than Carey Morgan, the song of a dynamic Indiana reverend who was also his namesake. This was his first known published solo work, although many more well-known pieces would emerge from Morgan's pen over the next two and a half decades. This composition utilizes the common habanera rhythm which was often found as an adequate substitute for the real South American patterns. The introduction sounds very much like church bells in the voicing, and it would be used again in the trio. The A and B sections are very similar, the latter being a major variation on the initial minor theme. The C section has a bit of a development in it including some extra measures beyond the expected 16. It transitions into what could be considered the trio or D section, depending on interpretation. This strain returns to the bell theme at the end of each iteration. After an interlude, this unusually constructed piece returns to same section, which ends with an unsettling unresolved flatted seventh. This musician believes this to possibly be an error, with the sixth to fifth intended instead of the seventh, but it was recorded with the original notes intact so you could share in my discomfort.
Castle Innovation Tango
James Reese Europe
Ford T. Dabney
One of the better associations between dancers and ragtime came with the alliance of
Vernon and Irene Castle
with black composer James Reese Europe, a founder of the Clef Club for African American musicians, and his close associate, Ford Dabney. The pair penned a number of engaging, unique and danceable works for the Castles from 1913 to 1915, after which they departed for even brighter horizons with their own organizations. Europe's Castle House Rag
is the best known of these, but Castle Innovation Tango
also made a few ripples when they danced to it. A modified syncopated habanera, it in many ways pays homage to the true Latin American tangos of the time, and is another work that sounds orchestral, even in solo piano form. Dabney and Europe were especially good with the handling of rhythms in their scores, necessary for enhancing stage dances. The trio of this piece is a bit different, however, and even slightly out of contextual character in its original form, so I took a few liberties with in my interpretation.
Need A Little More Ragtime In Your Life?
can be available in your area for a concert. I have a variety of one-man shows that cover the ragtime music era using humor, education, and entertaining tunes and songs. I am also often available for special shows at schools for all age groups, and seminars on the topics of Ragtime performance, composition, playing style, economics, early popular music styles, and American music history, all in conjunction with a concert appearance. In addition I can offer highly entertaining silent movie nights, good for fundraisers or just fun-raisers for a weekend afternoon. For more information on any of the shows that you may want to pass on to a local arts council, college or theater owner, you may view or download my Ragtime Show Information Packet below. You can also e-mail me any time at
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