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Established:June 1997
Author:All content written, coded, illustrated, maintained and posted by Bill Edwards
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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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Production/Performance News
UPDATES - 07/07/2017: The summer performance and travel season is in full swing. Now that I have my own little Vintage trailer, Pam and I can wander around the ragisphere looking for new sheet music finds, performing here and there, and finding inspiration in nature and in small towns all over. I am also involved with an exciting project concerning a new way of presenting Scott Joplin's music to those who want to learn it, and this will soon expand to other composers and popular ragtime pieces as well. When I can divulge details, I shall do so here and on the site's Facbook page.

One of my more exciting projects was with The Complete Piano Works of Scott Joplin, recently recorded by my friend Richard Dowling, and released by my friend Bryan Wright on Rivermont Records, for which I did some of the research and all of the cover restoration for the expansive bookly (over 50 color covers included). Richard performed 54 of the pieces - from memory - during two concerts held at Carnegie Hall Weill Auditorium on April 1. I was in attendance with the capacity crowd, and it was a great success. The CD is now in circulation, and worth your consideration. I believe it is also in download mode at the usual outlets if you are so inclined.

NEW CD RELEASE: I am continuing my "Z" series, which to date has yielded RAGZ, BLUZ, TANGOZ and DUETZ. The 2017 offering is STRIDZ, which came out in May of last year, but was remixed for improvements along with a rhythm ensemble. Some additional lower-fidelity examples of some of the tracks are included below, focused on Thomas "Fats" Waller. My next release will be very personal - songs related to loved ones, some of them, such as my late daughter Amber, who have been lost to us. Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf's beautiful Memories of You (also below) will be the centerpiece of this album.

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Included this time around are four reduced-fidelity tracks from my recent CD release, STRIDZ. They are focused on pieces made famous in part by Thomas "Fats" Waller. As prolific as he was in his composing acumen, Waller was also a consummate interpreter of popular songs as well. Many times when he would go into a studio or to do a radio show, he was handed pieces that he was, in part, obligated to do in order to have the freedom to do his own works. There was money in Waller's performances, and sometimes some left over in his pocket. One of these pieces is a bit more focused on two other famed bandleaders, but Waller was still involved with its popularity, as demonstrated in his recording of Christopher Columbus. Three of his less-often heard works are thrown in as well. Please enjoy, and if you want the full fidelity recording and the other tracks, please consider obtaining the CD with its copious liner notes and energetic stride piano tracks.
mp3 fileChristopher Columbus (Introducing Sing Sing Sing)
Leon "Chu" Berry (M) and Andy Razaf (L) - 1936 / Louis Prima – 1936
Christopher Columbus Sing Sing Sing This recording is a twist on one of the most famous jazz swing band performances of the late 1930s; specifically the 1937 disc and subsequent January, 1938, Carnegie Hall performance of Sing, Sing, Sing, With a Swing (Introducing Christopher Columbus) by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. It is also a joke on the original joke of the title and arrangement, using what was by then a dated practice of creating a medley by "introducing" the second tune within the first. Some artists in the 1920s, saxophonist Paul Biese being among the more prominent ones, would record what amounted to a two song medley, but would state it on the disc label as, given a real example from Biese, Dangerous Blues, "introducing" Sweet Love. In most cases the introduction was not necessary, and became a bit of a joke. Christopher Columbus was one of those tunes that did not need all that much help. When Benny Goodman arranger Jimmy Mundy, who often worked with Goodman’s primary arranger, the brilliant Fletcher Henderson, took the core of the swingin' work by Italian-American bandleader Louis Prima, Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing) and tried to stretch it out beyond the usual three minutes (it ended up requiring both sides of a 12" 78-rpm disc at over eight minutes), he incorporated, or "introduced" Christopher Columbus (A Rhythm Cocktail), recently written by Leon "Chu" Berry from Henderson's band, and successfully recorded by Thomas "Fats" Waller. The end result, which features Christopher Columbus played in a minor key after the main chorus, remains a popular hit eight decades later. This arrangement, leaning more toward stride than swing, simply turns the table, giving Mr. Columbus his due, and even doing a little mixing of the two pieces in places.
Copyright ©1936/1964 Sony/ATV Music Publishing
mp3 fileThe Viper's Drag
Thomas "Fats" Waller - 1934
The Viper's Drag (Cover Not Available) No, it's not the snake, but a cannabis reference. A viper was the 1930s name for a pot or "reefer" smoker, and the drag referenced both inhaling and the feeling of the tune, as well as the mellow high. This was part of an extraordinary series of original tunes Waller recorded for Victor in 1934, all infused with a level of accessible complexity and all uniquely Waller. It is a rondo in some respects, as the sinister sounding opening gives way to a joyous chorus in the middle, only to return to the drag portion. I was inspired by my friend and stellar performer Brian Holland to expand that first potion a bit into more of a minor swing in stride, still keeping to the Waller progression. Waller won’t say he did, and he didn’t say he didn’t, but the use of marijuana, hardly new in American society, was increasing in favor in the jazz music world of the 1930s. And one never knows do one! By the way, check your local laws before playing this piece. I don't want to have to post bail for you if it comes to that.
Copyright ©1934/1962 Chappel & Company
mp3 fileThe Jitterbug Waltz
Thomas "Fats" Waller - 1942
The Jitterbug Waltz (Cover Not Available) Waller was, if nothing else, versatile. He was able to make an average song or style popular through his interpretation of it, sometimes within minutes of his first reading, and in doing so gained skills in several different styles. Among those, never completely out of favor, was the old-fashioned waltz. In this case, the simple descending pattern over the 3/4 rhythm made for a delightful last dance of the night feel. This was quite different from the actual jitterbug dance, which was named after a word coined by singer Cab Calloway in 1934. It was a very frenetic jump dance that visually exemplified a sensation of "the jitters." How it relates to the waltz is unclear, but Waller was often rife with irony. Details vary, but he may have adapted the main melody from a piano exercise his son was doing in the early 1940s. Waller's recording of the piece was played on a rather new instrument at that time, a Hammond Model D electric organ. He was one of the first to embrace this instrument, essentially a rudimentary synthesizer, and it would become widely popular over the next few years, finally established as a staple of rock bands in the 1960s and 1970s. But the organ, as pleasant as it was, could not capture some of the nuances within this lovely waltz as well as the piano. The languid late-night feeling was further enhanced with carefully-crafted lyrics added to the piece by Richard Maltby for the 1978 Broadway revue Ain't Misbehavin'. So please pick a partner and put on your best jitterbug face – then dance – 1-2-3.
Copyright ©1942/1970 Chappel & Company
mp3 fileValentine Stomp
Thomas "Fats" Waller - 1929
Valentine Stomp (Cover Not Available) Even though Waller had done a few recordings in the years prior to this, his breakout tracks came in 1929, and quickly gained traction for RCA Victor on their Bluebird label. Among the extraordinary take no prisoners dynamic recordings that Waller recorded in 1929, including A Handful of Keys, Smashing Thirds and Honeysuckle Rose, this is a standout given the level of endurance required to execute the copious triplet figures as gracefully and forcefully at the end of the performance as at the beginning. It is also full of dynamic nuance, some of it hard to capture on the 78-rpm disc media of that era. After the effusive opening section, a straightforward showcase of Waller's strength is demonstrated in the second strain. The trio is largely a somewhat improvised collection of stride tricks, with some variance in the chord progressions. Then there is the return to the tricky opening (for which I added my own interlude). Love it or else, because it all makes for one heck of a valentine!
Copyright ©1929/1957 Chappel & Company

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mp3 fileMemories of You
J. Hubert "Eubie" Blake (M) and Andy Razaf (L) - 1930
Memories of You
Memories of You was composed for inclusion in Lew Leslie's revue Blackbirds of 1930, and it was not long before it became a hit. According to Blake, "I wrote that song in an octave and a fifth, to show off a girl's voice, [actress] Minto Cato. You never heard anyone sing it the way she did, because it takes someone with real range to do it." Although there were other fine Blake and Razaf songs in the show, and despite the beauty of this tune, Blackbirds of 1930 did not do well with receipts, in part because of the growing financial crisis of the Great Depression. Still, on radio and records, both trumpeter/vocalist Louis Armstrong and blues singer Ethel Waters made a memorable lasting impression with this lovely tune, as did Theloniuos Monk in 1956. Eubie made his own frequently-referenced recording of it in 1962 for the Golden Reunion in Ragtime project championed by ragtime performer and entrepreneur Bob Darch. It even became a persistent theme in The Benny Goodman Story (Universal - 1956), although its inclusion in Goodman's landmark 1938 jazz concert at Carnegie Hall was a falsehood.
This song has become intensely personal to me, and sharing it with the world is both therapy and conversely a personal breach of my own privacy. However, it does open up a two way window that allows me to communicate things with you through music that I cannot through mere speech or writing. My beautiful daughter Amber was taken in January of 2016 by oral cancer, with no predisposition or family history. She was less than a month from her 32nd birthday. I had to play a concert the next weekend, but needed to work through my grief by tribute. The piece I chose was the now-revered Planxty written by Glenn Jenks for his friend Jim Stewart. It is a beautiful Irish tribute tune and dirge intended for a memorial (Jim asked Glenn to write it so he could hear it while still alive) which is commonly used by musicians in my field now for such events and in concert.Amber Louise Bowden However, that same week, Glenn also died quite unexpectedly. So now being one of the first ragtime artist to perform just three days following his death, his own piece became a fitting tribute. I needed something for Amber, so I called on one I had not done for a while, the breathtakingly poignant and more difficult to interpret properly Memories of You by Eubie Blake. By the first time I worked through it after having not played it for a couple of years, it was instantly "her" piece from that moment on, and even now more than a year later I have trouble getting through it without welling up or just gushing tears, so the attachment is palpable.
I had prepared it for the World Championship of Old Time Piano Playing five months later, but did not get a chance to perform it in the finals, which in hindsight may have been a blessing. However, a week later at the 35th Annual Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, I did bring the piece to a full house at the final concert that Saturday night. What I did not know just increased the emotional factor that evening. At the end of intermission, the Scott Joplin Foundation presented, as they do each year, an award for lifetime achievement in the field of ragtime and related music. When no less than long time ragtime pianist and proponent Max Morath started describing the achievements of this individual, I was stunned to realize it was me. I was a total mess when I walked out to accept this highly valued honor, joining a truly elite group of recipients, and gave a halting speech to the audience, having already been in a heightened state of emotion even before this transpired. Then they got mean. I got no respot, and it was instantly my turn to play. After THAT! I don't remember much except that I felt so strongly about that piece and the memory of my daughter. Our relationship had never been what it should have been, and was starting to become, so my regret came through as well as my love. I am still informed it was the performance of the evening, to which I am honored, but also mystified, because I was feeling it, not listening to it so much.
For the 2017 43rd edition of the World Championship of Old Time Piano Playing, I did have the chance to perform the piece once again, having only played it once for an audience in the year prior. This time I clearly had more control over the performance, but not my emotions. The process of sharing my grief, regret, joy, loss, gains, etc. with a group of friends and strangers is draining and therapeutic. This was the performance I remember, and even though I don't know when I will revisit this piece because it takes so much out of me, I will stand by this as a fitting tribute to my lost daughter who was cheated out of a full life by cancer, leaving many of us cheated in the process by not growing older with her. Amber Louise Quiring Bowden, while I have regrets about not having had as much a role in your life as I should have or wanted, I knew we were on the right track, and those are the Memories of You that I shall long cherish. Presented here is the audio from that May 28, 2017 live performance, which can also be found on YouTube at the contest's own page.
Copyright ©1930/1958 Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. Recorded Live at Ole Miss University, Nutt Auditorium May 28, 2017.
mp3 fileBlack Beauty
Edward "Duke" Ellington - 1928
Black Beauty Many are aware of Ellington’s long history with his pioneering bands playing works ranging from East St Louis Toodle-oo to A-Train. Even during his tenure at the famous Harlem venue, The Cotton Club, which for many years hired black entertainers but allowed only white customers in the front door, he rarely let loose at the piano outside the occasional laid-back solo with his band. However, Duke was a capable ragtime and stride pianist as well, and also recorded a few piano solos, including a memorable pair in 1928. Black Beauty is the better-known of the two. A subtle a lovely tune, the descending chord progression in the beginning sets a tone for innovation, followed by a good solid stride swing section in the middle of piece with variations. There is overall a clever use of the circle of fifths throughout. As was the case with similar stride works, the printed sheet music was simplified somewhat from the original performance, but less so than would have been done a decade prior. The take here is not too far off from Ellington's original 1928 performance with just a few variances.
mp3 fileSwampy River
Edward "Duke" Ellington - 1928
Swampy River On the flip side of Ellington's 1928 recording of Black Beauty, which ultimately became the more familiar work, was this fascinating exploration of stride piano encompassing a variety of internal styles. The opening of descending augmented chords speaks to a musical figure that more serious popular music composers were calling on from George Gershwin to Harry Warren. The opening section that follows is a rhythmic treat that challenges the left hand of many players due to its tricky rhythms that shifts between the hands. That morphs into a minor habanera, known to many as the "Spanish tinge," to which I have added a couple of rhythmic and harmonic variants in the repeat. This section contains an unusual eight measure passage that seems a bit uncertain about where it will resolve. The trio takes on a light boogie pattern in the left hand with some stride-piano figures in the right. Then add on an interlude with homophonic octave runs just to give it more flavor. I extended the ending of the work just a little, but it is still in character with the original. It is unclear how the unusual title originated, although it may be a play on Stephen Foster's Swanee River (Old Folks at Home). Originally published in London rather than the United States, Swampy River remains a largely underperformed Ellington gem to this day.
mp3 fileThe Mooche
Edward "Duke" Ellington/Irving Mills - 1928
The Mooche Ellington was a very capable stride pianist, but as an orchestral arranger and composer he was truly in his groove. The Mooche was more or less a breakout piece for Duke and his orchestra. It was one of the earliest of his works, including East St. Louis Toodle-oo, to feature what was often coined "The Jungle Sound." The largely minor tonality, low clarinet, muted trumpet, and persistent four beat chordal pattern contributed to this emulating an air of mystery over a supposed continuing African drum beat. This was more about the mystique within the sound, and in this case it made for an effective background for jungle-themed cartoons in the early years of sound film. While a piano rendition, such as the one attempted here, does not fully capture what Cotton Club patrons of the late 1920s would have heard, it still brings out Ellington’s unique sound, so very little alteration was required from the original recordings of this piece, one of them which features Duke’s piano solo of the B section. One of the challenges here was to suggest different timbres or instrument sounds from a single instrument, the piano, and maintain three different lines - the bass, chord accompaniment and intertwing melodic lines - without losing the subtle drive of the work. It is unclear what the role of Irving Mills was to this piece, but he was responsible for both publishing and arranging some of Ellington's works (and other black Harlem composers such as Thomas "Fats" Waller), so may have contributed to a degree.

Need A Little More Ragtime In Your Life?
Bill Edwards 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 bill's email.
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Ragtime Webring-Dedicated To Scott Joplin

The Ragtime Webring-Dedicated to Scott Joplin and the music of the Ragtime Era, this ring is an invaluable resource for jazz music lovers, musicians and historians. Sheet music, midi files, afro-american history, record collectors...

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There are lots of great ragtime recordings by top artists available from
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Including some of my recommended favorites:
Max Morath Dick Hyman Dick Zimmerman
Paul Lingle Wally Rose Lu Watters
James P. Johnson Tony Caramia Squirrel Nut Zippers
Marcus Roberts Butch Thompson Jelly Roll Morton
Glenn Jenks Sue Keller Fats Waller
The Good Time Jazz Catalog and Bill's personal favorites, The Firehouse Five+2!

And don't miss these movies which include some ragtime music:
The Jazz Singer The Sting
Alexander's Ragtime Band Scott Joplin
The Legend of 1900 Ragtime
For Me and My Gal Meet Me In St. Louis
In the Good Old Summertime Take Me Out to the Ball Game
The Jolson Story Jolson Sings Again
Cheaper by the Dozen San Francisco
Somewhere in Time Titanic (1953)
The Other Pretty Baby
42nd Street Reds
The Son of Kong Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
Cheyenne Social Club The Shootist
How To Dance Through Time - Dances of the Ragtime Era

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