Black Bottom Stomp: Eight Masters of Ragtime and Early Jazz by David A. Jasen

By David A. Jasen

Black backside Stomp tells the compelling tales of the lives and occasions of 9 seminal figures in American song heritage, together with Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton.

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HotSyncopations,~ Louis for good. S. (Therewould be a total of six recordings of "Maple Leaf" done duringJoplin's lifetime. ) But, at nearly forty yearsold, ScottJoplin was new to the New York publishing scene. H e had to introduce himself, make some calls, meet some people,find out how it was done there. For a few years,he prosperedbefore becomingconsumedby the project that was beyondimagining by Tin Pan Alley, his opera Treemonisha. Joplin took a room in a boardinghouse,the Rosalline, at 128 West Twenty-ninthStreet,then he beganmaking the rounds.

And thereis a bizarrescenein which Syncopations,~ eight bears dance to an eerie waltz. But there is no mistaking Treemonishafor a light work. Not only is learningmore powerful than superstition, it is more practicalthan the pietiessungby the windbagpreacher ParsonA1ltalk. Late in 1911,Joplin thought he had found someonewilling to risk BLACK BOTTOM STOMP stagingthe work. ThomasJohnson,a black producer,announcedthat he 28 would presentTreemonisha,with elevenprincipal singersand a chorusof forty, in Atlantic City in early November.

Louis, too, all over the MississippiValley. In 1893 the Columbian Exposition, which everyone called the "World's Fair," openedin Chicago. Brun Campbell,a white ragtimer who studied under Joplin, said that his teacherwas among the wandering musicianswho went to Chicago then. Joplin supposedlyorganizeda small bandthere and playedin severalplacesaroundthe city, but thereis no evidencethat he (or any other rag player) performedat the fair itself It is interesting to speculateabout what Joplin may have played and whom he may have heardthere, but, like most of his early professional life, his monthsin Chicagoare lost to us.

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