Classic Rags New Orleans Style Vol 1 by Kris Tokarski
TRACKLIST & AUDIO
Pastime Rag #3
Grace And Beauty
Please Say You Will
Sunflower Slow Drag
The Easy Winners
St. Louis Rag
27-year-old pianist Kris Tokarski, a Berklee School of Music grad, moved to NOLA from the NYC area five years ago. Like many recent young transplants, he’s multi-stylistic, from rag and trad jazz to bebop (Barry Harris being a particular favorite), and he plays them well. Given Jelly Roll’s recorded legacy, it was a natural idea for Tokarski to conceive an entire album of Mortonized, or “New Orleans Style” rags.
The transformation doesn’t always work, especially on a genteel piece like “Heliotrope Bouquet.” But there are many moments which will delight the listener, particularly if he/she knows the originals (by Joplin, Marshall, Lamb, Scott, Hampton and Turpin) as well as Morton’s playing. Drummer Hal Smith, who’s spent 40 years mastering early jazz styles, and the fine local bassist Cassidy Holden, accompany on half of the tracks.
Learning to play in Morton’s style is a lifelong endeavor, and for Tokarski to have grasped so many of the elements in his 20s, and to have applied them so creatively, is impressive. Let’s hope he has another 50 years to follow in this direction.
OFFBEAT MAGAZINE US
Back in 1938 when he recorded an extensive series of songs for the Library of Congress, Jelly Roll Morton included two versions of “Maple Leaf Rag.” He demonstrated how he transformed Scott Joplin’s most famous piece from ragtime into swinging jazz. Classic Rags New Orleans Style builds on the concept, imagining what it would have sounded like if Morton had given a similar treatment to 14 other rags.
Kris Tokarski performs eight Joplin pieces plus a rag apiece by Artie Matthews, Arthur Marshall, Joseph Lamb, Tom Turpin, James Scott, and Robert Hampton. While ragtime purists may not be completely pleased, Tokarski shows respect for the original melodies and frameworks while opening up the music. With bassist Holden and drummer Smith giving him steady and mostly quiet support, Tokarski digs into the pieces and moves them forward into the 1920s and even ‘30s. Among the songs that he uplifts are “Pastime Rag No. 3,” “Heliotrope Bouquet,” “Elite Syncopations,” “Sunflower Slow Drag” and “The Easy Winners.” Everything works quite well.
SYNCOPATED TIMES UK