Personnel: Claes Ringqvist [tp] , Kjell Sundin [cl], Lars Kjellberg [tb], Ake Dahlback [pn],
Mats Fagerberg [bn], Bengt “Bim” Ingelstam [sous], Bertil Falk [dr], Svante Nordell [vio],
Kersti Soderlind [vo]
Songs: Bosn’ Rag, Whoa You Heifer, Roberto Clemente, The Easy Winners, Ma Ragtime Baby, Peaceful Henry, The Ragtime Dance, Ethiopia Rag, Elite Syncopations, African Pas, Original Rags, Echoes from the Snowball Club, Havana Rag, The Moose—A March, The Entertainer, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Climax Rag, Cotton Blossom Time
JCCD-3124: “Cotton Blossom Time” A Ragtime Recital - Barfota Jazzmen
JazzReview.com—Internet Jazz Website
Cotton Blossom Time album is quite different in that it is performed by a small ragtime orchestra rather than by a solo pianist. It also features the compositions of a diverse group of classic ragtime writers plus a current composer, David Thomas Roberts. Roberts penned a tune titled “Roberto Clemente” in 1979 in honor of the fabled Pittsburgh Pirates right-fielder. He also collaborated with Bill Bissonnette on the liner notes for this album.
The Barfota Jazzmen, led by cornetist/trumpeter Claes Ringqvist are normally associated with the New Orleans revival movement and highly respected in their native Sweden. The leader wisely added a violin to the lineup for the ragtime sessions and spent countless hours on authentic arrangements. Fans of classic ragtime are nothing, if not critical. They’ll have a tough time finding fault with this recording. The judicious use of violin, clarinet, sousaphone and drums is effective and exciting. The piano takes a “back seat” on the ragtime album and is relegated to the rhythm section.
While the project includes five numbers by Scott Joplin and one by James Scott, there are ample tunes by less-known writers. The title tune, “Cotton Blossom Time” is from the pen of Percy Wenrich (1887-1952), a white composer, a native of Joplin, Missouri. Wenrich was better known for popular songs like “When You Wore a Tulip” and “Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet” but penned a few rags including “The Smiler” and “Red Rose Rag.”
A couple of Detroit writers, Fred Stone and Harry Guy contributed “Ma Ragtime Baby” and “Echoes From The Snowball Club.” The latter is believed to be the first ragtime waltz (1898). The New Orleans musician and composer, Alphonse Verges, contributed the popular “Whoa You Heifer” in 1904. Kansas City’s Harry Kelly (1879-1955) offers his highly successful “Peaceful Henry” (1905) and the band handles it perfectly.
The most obscure ragtime writer is represented by two compositions, “African Pas” (1902) and “Havana Rag” (1904). Maurice Kirwin’s biographical information is limited to the dates and publishers of his music. He is known to be from Saint Louis, Missouri but little else is known. However, the quality of the music speaks for itself, especially “Havana.”
The Barfota Jazzmen assembled Cotton Blossom Time from several recording sessions in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2006. All recordings were done in Sweden and are now being released on America’s Jazz Crusade label. In their usual fashion, the label provides a generous 73 minutes of music. Ragtime fans are welcome to listen to samples on the Jazz Crusade website. It’s fine ragtime!
Jazz Journal International—British Jazz Magazine
This band from Sweden is notable for its historical perspective and enlightened eclecticism. Its earlier CD I Want To Be A Birdman impressed me by its attention to detail, its imaginative repertoire and its ability to bring the styles of the prehistory of jazz to life. These musicians are quite capable of playing in the New Orleans 'revivalist' style, but here they are focussed on ragtime; not as played by a jazz group but by a true ragtime band dedicated to proper performance in accordance with the composer's intentions. This is no mere academic exercise, as has been promoted by others in the past, because they play with joy, passion and excitement and with a robust approach where the rough edges only go to give the music its individuality and character. The repertoire ranges from the classic rags to a more Palm Court ambience, including one original composition, and each piece is played according to its particular merits. Moose March is outstandingly dynamic and
even the good old Entertainer is given a new lease of life. The material was recorded over several years but the results are remarkably consistent with the band perhaps becoming even more comfortable in their chosen milieu with the passage of time. Kersti Soderlind is no Bessie Smith but she sings with spirit in a manner more suitable for this formal but exceedingly enjoyable music which successfully transports us back to the Creole society of times gone by.
Just Jazz—British Jazz Magazine
Sweden's Barfota (translated - barefoot) Jazzmen are one of the finest traditional bands in Europe and always include beautifully arranged and played Ragtime numbers in their concert and club programmes. Very taken with this aspect of their abilities Jazz Crusade's Big Bill Bissonnette, who has toured with the band, spent some years persuading leader Claes Ringgvist that his Ragtime efforts were so excellent that he should (could!) expand them to make a complete album. Here's the result - 18 delightful tracks of beautifully played, totally authentic Ragtime.
The band - expanded to a nine-piece with the addition of a violin for the album - play with verve and enthusiasm, and the arrangements never spoil the flow of the great melodies. Listening with great pleasure to these tracks, it's not difficult to see how the transition from Ragtime dance music to jazz took place just over a century ago. So, buy this CD, sit back, let your imagination run free, and let the music here transport you back to a gentler age. It's a fun journey, and you might just 'see' where Buddy Bolden was coming from!
Boxell’s Jazz Website—New Zealand
Most unusual: a CD of classic ragtime music. Normally you find ragtime either as a solo piano CD or played in a non classic style as part of the mix on a traditional jazz band CD. This is ‘Classic’ ragtime with the Barfota jazzmen leaving their usual ‘revival’ style behind, acquiring violinist Svante Nordell, and playing more as an orchestra than a jazz band. The tunes come from various sessions. Tracks 1-5 1997, 6-10 2001, 11-15 2005 and 16-18 2006 with all but the 2006 session being culled from earlier albums released on their own label.
I have the band’s 1990 ‘My Life Will be Sweeter Someday’ album, which contains a couple of rags, but they are not really in the same style as the music on this CD, which is ragtime as it was intended to be played, rather than as jazz bands play it today. Having said that the tracks 1-10 to my ear seem a lot ‘tighter’ than the later ones, though that could be more due to the tunes them selves. Ragtime, played in the original style, is a very precise, technical formal style of music. Listen to ‘Ma Ragtime Baby’ and ’Ethiopia Rag’ to hear it at its most exact. One thing I really found interesting was the clever way the violin & clarinet often played the same line together, with ‘Original Rags’ and ’The Easy Winners’ being my favourite examples. This is a fascinating CD and well worth adding to your collection.
Nuts: I lent this CD to my father to listen to. He loves it so much he says that I won't get it back until I inherit his estate!
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