Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tom McDermott - New Rags

Tom McDermott is my favorite living New Orleans piano player. His influences include ragtime, Jelly Roll Morton, James Booker, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and Brazilian choro music. He somehow blends all of these threads together into a style which is kaleidoscopic, yet original and personal. This is his first album, recorded for the traditional jazz label Stomp Off in late 1981 and early 1982.

McDermott grew up in ragtime country - St. Louis - and was still living there when this record was made. It's more or less a ragtime album, but a wide-ranging one. There are two James P. Johnson stride piano classics and a Charles Hunter rag from  1902, but McDermott wrote the rest of the pieces here. A couple almost sound like traditional ragtime, but most display McDermott's harmonic imagination and gentle wit. I particularly like "Almost Rag," so titled because the piece only has two themes rather than the usual three or four.

I have no idea what McDermott thinks of this album these days. He still performs rags frequently, but often "McDermott-izes" them, as in the very cool version of "Maple Leaf Rag" I've included below, since New Rags has not been reissued in digital form.

The multi-talented Mr. McDermott also painted the cover art for this album, and has recently published a book of limericks.

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