COMPACT DISC REVIEW
Eagles and Ivories 23 Ragtime Weekend
Muscatine County Arts Council MCAC-003
Jeff Barnhart: Calico Rag / Rose Leaf Rag; Scott Kirby: Peacherine Rag / Magnetic Rag / Bethena / Escorregando / Charleston Rag; Ivory & Gold®: A Real Slow Drag / Baby Won’t You Please Come Home? / Creole Belles / Avalon / A Good Man Is Hard To Find / Red Rose Rag; Benjamin Loeb: Ameno Resedá / Le Bananier / Pineapple Rag / Russian Rag / Vem Cá Branquinha.
This is the 23rd season for the Eagles and Ivories Ragtime Weekend in Muscatine, Iowa but only the third souvenir recording I have been privileged to review. Someone familiar with computer graphics has taken the packaging uptown, featuring a dazzling color cover and a stylish playlist presentation on the back, all housed in a real CD jewel box. The recording quality has also been improved. The piano is average with a bright treble and a weak bass but the microphones pick it up very well, making the music easy to hear. The vocal mic level is good, too.
The disc opened with the festival’s music director, Jeff Barnhart, giving a rousing rendition of Nat Johnson’s Calico Rag, always a show-stopper. Scott Kirby’s set was next. Known for his sensitive interpretations of Scott Joplin’s works, he offered Peacherine Rag, Magnetic Rag and Bethena to a receptive audience.
This might be a good time to point out the inclusion of four Latin American pieces on this memento CD, a pleasant surprise not found on previous Muscatine recordings. Kirby performed the first one, Escorregando by Ernesto Nazareth, before closing his set with Eubie Blake’s Charleston Rag, always a crowd pleaser.
Next up was the flute and piano duo, Ivory & Gold®, also known as Anne and Jeff Barnhart, who gave us a stately version of Joplin’s A Real Slow Drag plus a merry take on Creole Belles by J.B. Lampe. Anne then soloed vocally on Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, proving that she can sound just as “down and out” as the best of ‘em. Jeff’s solo was Joplin’s Rose Leaf Rag in an enjoyable performance.
Back for a second year was local Iowan Benjamin Loeb, executive director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. He opened with Ameno Resedá by Nazareth, followed by Le Bananier by Louis M. Gottschalk and Pineapple Rag by Joplin – all played very well. What came next was perhaps the most talked-about performance of the weekend: George Cobb’ Russian Rag, based on Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor. Loeb’s 6:47-minute version included the entire prelude plus Cobb’s rip-off – a stunning medley. Sadly, his set closed with Nazareth’s Vem Cá Branquinha, played way too fast, making it impossible to appreciate the subtle rhythms.
Ivory & Gold® closed with the duo doing Avalon, Anne singing A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Jeff doing Percy Wenrich’s clever Red Rose Rag at such warp speed that it sucked whatever musicality it had right out of it (bet it was fun to watch, though). All in all, this is a well-produced CD with enough highlights to intrigue even folks who couldn’t attend.
Available for $15.00 postpaid from the Muscatine County Arts Council, P.O. Box 815, Muscatine, IA 52761-0815.