Arranged and Performed by Tom Brier
Goldeneye Rag / Blue Goose Blues / Camellia Fox Trot / The Trophy Rag / Conversation Pieces / Cotton States Rag / Nola / Morning Star / Skeletons In the Closet / Chicken An De Possum / The Western Drouth / Ready Money / Rag Weed Blues / Dixie Belles / Cranberry Blues / Riverboat Rag.
Tom Brier seems to have become the wunderkind of Twenty-First Century electronic ragtime. Billed as “Band arrangements of vintage and contemporary ragtime piano pieces orchestrated for four- or five-piece combo,” all music actually emanates from a synthesizer and all parts are played by Brier. No definitive information about this feat is given, but heard at various times and in various combinations (I think) are the sounds of piano, guitar, banjo, bass, percussion, and in one instance (Skeletons In the Closet) organ. This is a much more satisfying effort than his earlier electronic CD (titled “Generic”) which was a bit too much “in your face.”
Hewing to his previous formula of mixing rags of yesterday and today, Brier has put together a satisfying playlist. With the exception of the very familiar Nola, the vintage rags are unappreciated sparklers by relatively unknown composers which Brier seems to consistently unearth. The contemporary cuts are by Gil Lieby (The Trophy Rag), Ron O’Dell (Conversation Pieces), Frank French (The Western Drouth), and, as expected, Brier himself (Goldeneye Rag, Camellia Fox Trot, Skeletons, Rag Weed Rag, Riverboat Rag, Morning Star and Cranberry Blues, the last two co-composed with Eric Marchese).
Brier opens with a peppy number, closes with a firecracker and in between serves up numbers that are fast and slow, swingy and straight, bluesy and happy. Arrangements are varied and never boring and he often eschews a boom-chick bass line for a more active rhythm style with counterpoint melodies. In a couple of instances his “guitar” lead is overpowered by his “piano” accompaniment, but that’s a relatively minor flaw. His best number may be the title cut, with its intentionally creepy A-section and its Novelty Piano harmonies. Conversely, Cranberry Blues has a trio that wanders too much and seems to get lost. Several pages of mildly biased but thoroughly elucidating liner notes are penned by his piano pal Marchese.
Yes, this is electronically produced music and no, it’s not the true sounds of the instruments themselves. It’s close, though, and it’s pretty darned good, so if you’re of an open mind toward ragtime you might give this CD by Tom Brier a spin.
Available for $17.00 postpaid from Tom Brier, 2618 Stonecreek Drive #289, Sacramento, CA 95833.. No contact information is given in the CD itself except an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.