CD Review: The Dawn of the Century Ragtime Orchestra

By Bill Mitchell

The Dawn of the Century Ragtime Orchestra was formed in 1967 by David E. Bourne, an organizer of the Maple Leaf Club, founded that same year in Los Angeles and "dedicated to the preservation of classic ragtime." Richard Zimmerman, the band's pianist and MLC co-founder, discovered and purchased a library of several hundred orchestrations that had been used early in the century by an eastern orchestra. Included were many rags and ragtime-related pieces. Bourne's orchestra proved to be a hit at MLC meetings, and in 1971 they made their first LP, which was followed by a second in 1972. These releases received critical and popular acclaim. Trebor Tichenor characterized the nine-piece ensemble as "…probably the best of the ragtime orchestras, playing authentic arrangements from the ragtime age." Both LPs have been reissued recently on CD (Merry Makers Record Company, CD-20).

The selections: Dixie Blossoms; Portuguese Rag; Sweetmeats; Ma Pickaninny Babe; Slavery Days; Silver Bell; Miss Dixie; Cubanola Glide; I Want to Be in Dixie; Peaceful Henry; Alexander's Ragtime Band; Repasz Band March; America, I Love You; Coon Hollow Capers; Hyacinth Rag; Friendship Café Rag; Cotton Time; King Crap; Bombasto March; Yankee Girl; Ramshackle Rag; Silks and Rags Waltzes; Eli Green's Cakewalk; Raggy Trombone; Bohemia.

Much, but not all, of the program is ragtime. Bourne chose the numbers to give the flavor of a turn-of-the-century orchestra playing for a dance or a concert in the park. The music is tuneful and exciting, played with great gusto.

The orchestra on tracks 1-13 is composed of two cornets (David Bourne and Jack Langlos), clarinet (Mike Baird), trombone (Dave Kennedy), two violins (Jack Malek and Donna McClure), tuba (Art Levin), percussion (Roy Roten) , and piano (Richard Zimmerman). On tracks 14-25, the personnel remains the same excepting that Victor de Veritch (violin) replaces Malek, and Holly Ulyate (flute) replaces McClure.

Richard Zimmerman wrote the liner notes, providing interesting information on each of the numbers played. Early ragtime composers whose works are represented include Percy Wenrich, Charles L. Johnson, Ted Snyder, E. Harry Kelly, George Botsford, Charles L. Daniels, Fred Stone, and Joseph F. Lamb. Most of the material dates from 1895-1919, but there are two modern rags (Portuguese and Friendship Café) composed by the band's clarinetist, Mike Baird.

If you like band ragtime, you will certainly enjoy The Dawn of the Century Ragtime Orchestra. The vintage arrangements are played crisply and brightly, and you will probably discover a tune or two new to you. Discovering such a gem as Charles L. Daniels's "Cotton Time" is alone worth the price of admission.

The price of this CD is $17.00 postpaid. Make your check payable to David E. Bourne, and mail it to him at 30645 Mainmast Drive, Agoura, CA 91301.

John T. Carney's Original Rags for Download

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