COMPACT DISC REVIEW
(No label, no number)
Maple Leaf Rag / Birch View Rag / Black and White Rag / Hommage ŗ Montmarquette / Pineapple Rag and Twelfth Street Rag / How About Joy / La Complainte du Folkloriste / All in Stride / Ragtime Dance / Zerline Waltz.
The Leahy Family is a well-known group of kinfolk from Ontario, Canada that have been making music across Canada and beyond for several decades. Originally stressing their native folk music, they have recently embraced ragtime, due mainly to the talents of Erin Leahy, who is proficient on both piano and violin and is showcased on this CD, backed up by friends and family members. It is an impressive debut album.
Dominated by ragtime, the playlist also contains two delicate tone poems by French-Canadian composer and accordionist Philippe Bruneau (1934-2011), which add a tender balance to the upbeat rags. Maple Leaf Rag is taken at a brisk clip with straight-ahead melody on the piano against somewhat jazzy rhythm and counterpoint on violin, drums and bass. Erinís fiddle swaps leads with her piano on a swingy Birch View Rag, an original composition of hers with catchy melodies. In contrast, Black and White Rag is an all-out romp with much improvisation by Erin and the group.
A tasteful pairing of Pineapple Rag and Twelfth Street Rag opens the next ragtime section. Erin takes these at a medium tempo, playing the melodies of both with little improvisation and even including the seldom-heard introduction to Twelfth Street, a definite bonus. An original by Erin, How About Joy, follows. Itís heavily syncopated, taken at a gentle clip, and gets my vote for the best cut on the album. All in Stride, another original, is next, and bears a deceptive title. It is slow and stomping but bearing no resemblance to the Harlem style of the same name. Finishing up are an enjoyable reading of Joplinís Ragtime Dance and Zerline Waltz, a soft and graceful opus dedicated to the memory of her grandfather.
The recording quality is top shelf, the dynamics are very good and the mix of tempos in the playlist sustains interest throughout. Sadly, what is missing are any liner notes or information about the music or the musicians (what is reported above in the opening paragraph was gleaned from the internet).
With her mixture of literal melody against a varied and free-form background, Erin Leahy has successfully offered a youthful approach to an established ragtime tradition.
Available as a CD for $20.00 plus shipping or as a digital download for $9.99 from www.cdbaby.com.