Jack Rummel



Dream Shadows: The Ragtime Music of Albright, Bolcom, McNally, Feurzeig, Stravinsky
William McNally, piano
Rivermont Records BSW-2246

The Dream Rags: Sleepwalker’s Shuffle / Nightmare Fantasy Rag (A Night on Rag Mountain)  / Morning Reveries / Three Ghost Rags: Graceful Ghost / The Poltergeist / Dream Shadows / Ragtime / Piano-Rag Music / Stride Rite (A Work of Genius) / Curious Creatures: Blue Donkey Rag / Mocha Monkey Rag / The Black Unicorn (A Ragtime Fallacy).

     It may be just a coincidence that this recording arrives on the heels of a Rivermont CD of recent rags that hearken back to an earlier era (“Revival Ragtime,” Rivermont BSW-2245), for the contrast between these two discs couldn’t be farther apart.  William McNally’s passion is to embrace the future possibilities of ragtime, based somewhat on the changes and experimentations that have redefined 20th century classical music.
     (A disclaimer:  While I have spent over 40 years immersed in a love affair with ragtime, I have had no formal musical education and thus I admit to feelings of inadequacy when asked to review the creation of a musician who holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree.)
     Of the pieces included on this CD, only one is apt to be readily familiar to most ragtime audiences.  William Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost has been recorded by over a dozen different artists.  It has become a perennial favorite, yet the other two parts of his “Ghost” suite, The Poltergeist and Dream Shadows, remain in relative obscurity, perhaps due to their slightly jarring harmonies and/or somewhat unconventional approach to the genre.
     Similarly, William Albright’s name is closely associated with ragtime, due in no small part to his excellent release of Scott Joplin’s complete piano works, yet his three “Dream” rags have received precious little attention.  Igor Stravinsky’s two compositions, Ragtime and Piano-Rag Music, stretch the definition to its outer limits and serve to represent the classical composers of the early 1900s who experimented with the “new” sound.  David Feurzeig’s Stride Ride from 2003 pays homage to Stravinsky, even to borrowing, according to the composer, “upward of half a dozen direct quotes” from Piano-Rag Music.
    McNally’s compositions bring the listener back to what Albright and Bolcom have set forth, namely more recognizable grounding in ragtime; two of them, Blue Donkey Rag and Mocha Monkey Rag have won New Ragtime contests, the latter being my favorite piece on the disc.
     I admire his courage in recording this project.  His talents are prodigious, the recording quality is excellent and the 20-page liner notes are extremely helpful in navigating what for some listeners may be uncharted waters.  Just as classical artists have found acceptance of the works of Stravinsky, Satie, Milhaud, Ives and other “Modern” composers when they are included in the company of works by “The Old Masters,” so I predict that the works that William McNally has so masterfully interpreted will gain increasing acceptance through expanded exposure.
     Available for $15.95 plus postage or for $9.95 as an mp3 download at <>.