Ragtime music is coming to Denver. On April 9th at 7:00 pm Reginald Robinson an “antiquarian” of our generation will take over the Steinway for a solo concert in the historic Baur’s building. The self-taught ragtime pianist out of Chicago will be presented by MAS Eclectic concerts on the Chandelier stage at Dazzle. Ragtime music was a precursor to jazz and rock. In 1973, The Entertainer by Scott Joplin (1902) from the movie The Sting was in everyone’s ears. In 1996, audiences raved about the Tony award winning musical, Ragtime.
Longtime Denver audiences might recall “Mr. Ragtime” Max Morath who hosted the 1960’s KRMA series The Ragtime Era. After being elected to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2016, Morath said he was “a white kid from Colorado who lucked into an interesting line of work and I wouldn’t be there with that music without a lot of forgotten African Americans who had it very tough…”
Reginald Robinson found ragtime at age 13 and was trapped by the late 19th century music that descended from jig and march music played by African American bands. He learned to play the piano by comparing note by note transcriptions of ragtime sheet music to piano rolls of the same rags. Jon Weber, jazz pianist from Milwaukee, mentored Reginald for his 1992 demo that earned him his first record contract.
In 2004, Robinson was awarded the MacArthur Genius grant for “his ragtime compositions, his ingenuity as a pianist and his unyielding advocacy of an otherwise unjustly overlooked art form.” Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune 12/17
In addition to his scholarly study of ragtime music and a discovery of an unknown Scott Joplin fragment in the archives of Fisk University, Robinson has composed “dozens of harmonically daring, structurally complex works.” He received a commission in 2018 to compose the first left hand only ragtime piano work. Later in 2018 at Chicago’s Symphony Hall on the SCP Jazz series he premiered his composition, A Tribute to the Great James Reese Europe. Europe was a composer and conductor of The Clef Club, an all black orchestra that performed at Carnegie Hall in 1912. According to Keith Gerbosi from Splash Magazines, Robinson’s Chicago performance was “lively and fun, but none more than at the end when his entire band got up, while still playing, marched around and eventually marched right off stage.”
The 2015 recording, Music of Reginald R. Robinson live in concert, captured a live performance by the River Raisin Ragtime Revue. Listeners can hear Robinson’s virtuosity as a composer in William Hayes’ orchestration. The liner notes name the record as the “first major collection of ragtime works composed and orchestrated by African Americans since the ragtime era.”
Reginald Robinson’s appearance at Baur’s is a unique opportunity to hear classic music performed as it was written. Reserve your tickets soon as seats are limited for the April 9th show at 7:00 pm at http://masmusic.org/reginaldrobinson/
“Revitalizing this early twentieth century musical form while taking it in contemporary and unanticipated directions.” MacArthur Grant Foundation.