The sound of Ragtime to come to St John’s

Lifestyle / Wed 22nd Apr 2015 at 04:56pm

RagtimeA session with a difference is promised on Thursday (30 April) as piano ‘professor’, Martin Litton, takes a step back in time to the early 1900s when he presents Ragtime Revisited at The Arc. (St John’s Arts Centre, St John’s Walk, Market St. Old Harlow, CM17 0AJ) at 8pm.

Essentially written for the piano, Ragtime was the first African American music to be notated and is a close relative of early New Orleans Jazz.

It’s most popular composer, Scott Joplin, regarded himself as a serious musician, with a Ragtime Ballet and two Operas included in his output.

In 1899, he composed the most famous piece, “Maple Leaf Rag”, which influenced many other pianists and writers.

“The Entertainer” followed in 1901 which later enjoyed a huge revival in the 1970s classic movie, “The Sting”, bringing Ragtime to a new audience.

Another Ragtime revival success was George Botsford’s “Black and White Rag”, a million seller for Winifred Atwell in the ‘50s, which became the iconic theme tune for BBC TV’s “Pot Black” snooker show in the ‘60s.

Throughout the first decade of the last century, Ragtime became the dominant popular music, with many novelty songs using ‘rag’ or ‘ragtime’ in the title. One of Irving Berlin’s earliest successes was ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’.

New Orleans piano legend, Jelly Roll Morton adapted the style and made it jazzy.

Martin Litton has arranged the works of Scott Joplin, Morton and others for the trio of piano, clarinet and drums.

In 2009, the album, “Ragtime Revisited” was recorded at the Arc, using the venue’s superb Yamaha Grand Piano.

Martin Litton studied piano at the Colchester Institute; after graduating, he joined Harry Gold’s Pieces of Eight, then spent two years with Kenny Ball, touring Russia and the Middle East.
Martin’s work with leading British musicians includes recordings with Humphrey Lyttelton, Wally Fawkes, not to mention backing US stars such as Kenny Davern, Bob Wilbur, Yank Lawson and Wild Bill Davison.

Featured in the show will be Australian clarinet wizard, Karl Hird, who grew up travelling the world with his parents’ New Orleans jazz band. Karl worked with many of the surviving New Orleans jazz pioneers in his youth.
Completing the line-up is John Petters, (“England’s finest Traditional Jazz Drummer” – The Mississippi Rag USA) an acknowledged expert on early jazz and Ragtime styles as well as the flamboyant driving drumnastics of American drum star, Gene Krupa.

Reviewing the release of the DVD / CD Box set of Ragtime Revisited, BBC broadcaster, Paul Barnes said, “From one classy sound to another…the bonus, besides the music, is some extremely learned and well informed notes from Martin Litton, who’s evidently studied Ragtime as a phenomenon and really knows his stuff and moreover he plays the piano rather well too!”

The show starts at 8pm and admission is only £10. Further details from 01406 365731.

Ragtime Revisited (Martin Litton, piano, Karl Hird, clarinet & John Petters, drums @ The Arc, St John’s Arts Centre, St John’s Walk, Market St. Old Harlow, CM17 0AJ Thursday 30th April @ 8pm – Adm £10. Details: 01406 365 731

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