COMPACT DISC REVIEW
Daniel Souvigny, piano, featuring Danny Coots, percussion
(No label, no number)
Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue / Cole Smoak / Go Wash an Elephant / Ham And! / King Chanticleer / Honeysuckle Rose / Charleston Rag / The Fingerbuster / Nagasaki / Tango Fredette / Smashing Thirds / Golden Wedding / Razor Blades / Ragtime Nightingale / After You’ve Gone / Tiger Rag / Etude No. 12 – Revolutionary / Sonata No. 21 in C Major – Waldstein.
The title “Possibilities” can be understood many different ways. For Daniel Souvigny, it seems to be “using these musical compositions as starting points, what can I create?” His answer it seems, which belies his young age, was to record 65+ minutes of music at a skill level which most artists twice his senior would feel fortunate to achieve.
As is the case with most ragtime prodigies, he favors flash and speed. However, in the words of baseball legend Dizzy Dean, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it,” and Souvigny indeed Can. Do. It. He has also mastered the art of improvisation. Not only does he dance around the perimeters of the printed scores, but he has come up with a unique ending for each cut on the recording (except, for obvious reasons, the final two selections).
The playlist features a good mix of cocktail jazz (Five Foot Two, Nagasaki and After You’ve Gone), stride piano (King Chanticleer, Honeysuckle Rose, Smashing Thirds and Golden Wedding), a nice tango by Johnny Maddox (Tango Fredette), endless variations on a 16-bar theme by J. Russel Robinson (Go Wash an Elephant) and four barn-burning rags (Eubie’s Charleston Rag, Razor Blades by Tom Brier, Jelly’s Fingerbuster and that great warhorse from New Orleans, Tiger Rag.)
The rest are some early ragtime favorites which Souvigny renders appropriately, albeit with tasteful embellishments: Cole Smoak by Clarence St. John, Ham And! by Arthur Marshall, Car-Barlick Acid by Clarence Wiley and Ragtime Nightingale by Joseph Lamb. My favorite was Lamb’s Nightingale, proving that Souvigny can play slowly with great feeling when necessary, although Wiley’s sprightly cakewalk was a close second. The inclusion of Danny Coots, the master of understatement, on percussion is just icing on the cake wherever he is featured.
I’m not qualified to judge classical music, but the performances of Chopin’s etude and Beethoven’s sonata, each with its measure of speed and flash, were show-stoppers in their own right. (Perhaps in the future he can be persuaded to play a slow and introspective classical work such as the adagio cantabile from Beethoven’s “Pathétique” sonata, so we can appreciate the spaces between the notes, almost as important as the notes themselves.)
The sound quality is very good and the graphics, while limited, are appealing. Other than a page of heartfelt thank-you’s, there are no liner notes. It should be noted that Daniel Souvigny was 14 years old when “Possibilities” was recorded, making this album a truly phenomenal feat. Where he will go from here is anybody’s guess, but it’s obvious that the sky is the limit.
Available for $20.00 only at festivals and other personal performances. The good news is that he seems to be performing everywhere these days.