Most of the traditional jazz players in New Orleans try and reproduce the music from the ’10s through ’40s by emulating that music as closely as possible, rhythmically, harmonically and in the spirit of the earlier improvisations. Others go quite a ways out from this approach in their desire to update the music to take into account later music trends.
Pianist Kris Tokarski has taken a sensible approach of taking the music that predates jazz— ragtime—and playing it in the style of how the early New Orleans jazzmen might have taken it. Pianistically, this means, for the most part, Jelly Roll Morton, who recorded at least three rags in his early jazz style. This disc presents 15 rags from 1903–16, seven with the simpatico accompaniment of drummer Hal Smith and Joshua Gouzy on bass, the others on solo piano.
Some tracks, especially the brisker ones, work better than others: James Scott’s “Frog Legs Rag,” Joseph Lamb’s “Patricia Rag” and Theron C. Bennett’s “St. Louis Tickle,” to name three. But every track will evoke smiles from those who are familiar with the ragtime/Jelly Roll canon. With dozens of albums out there repeating the scores verbatim, these variations are most welcome.