RED HOT RAGTIME, VOL 2, JOHNNY MADDOX
by David Reffkin, Director, The American Ragtime Ensemble; Producer/Host, "The Ragtime Machine" (KUSF, San Francisco)
Volume 2 in this series picks up with more of the mix of pop sources found in Volume 1. Some of the classics of ragtime arrangements created by Johnny Maddox are included in this 16-track disc. The dynamic opening, "Dixie Medley", is followed by "The Saints" and "Alley Cat", two pieces that will immediately bring to mind the golden era that Maddox helped to define. And it is important to remind the prospective audience, most of whom by now includes a crowd younger than that which lived through the era, that Johnny Maddox was one of the original artists of the genre, helping to define this exciting music that was such an inspiration to the other piano players of the day. When you hear the current crop of ragtime players on the festival or concert scene, you are hearing a number of 'students' of Maddox, whether they are playing in the style or became excited about ragtime or piano playing just from hearing Johnny Maddox.
The Crazy Otto Music series is bringing back much of the repertoire previously issued on LP, such as the many Dot recordings that were best sellers. These pieces include not only the big ragtime hits but also the deserving lesser-known titles. A perfect example of the latter would be "Humoresque", the light classic of Antonin Dvorak that underwent a number of 'ragtime desecrations' as they used to be called. In Johnny Maddox's hands, not only are the finer elements of the piece all seamlessly tied into a sparkling whole, but through intelligent chord choices and melodic turns of phrase, the performance is distinctive and memorable.
Johnny's 45 albums and 11 million-sales figure, including 9 gold singles, provides the treasure chest of music now being re-released on the Crazy Otto label. Many fans will appreciate having these classic performances back in the form of CD reissues, with the sonically satisfying remasterings from Bay Records' Mike Cogan.