Piano Roll Transcriptions

Piano, Fortepiano and Harpsichord Music
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Rob C.

Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by Rob C. » Thu Jul 02, 2015 8:28 pm

Thanks, Frank, for your kind words--I'm honored to have you rate it so highly and doubly honored to know that it would've brought a smile to Mike's face. I do wish I could've met him. My wife and I never grow tired of this tune, so thanks for taking the time to scan it! Thanks, too, for all the information about George W. Thomas (which I'm glad has been preserved in print) and for sharing scans of some Thomas piano rolls with the group! It's fascinating that he commissioned piano rolls of his own compositions. Have any of his advertised compositions never turned up as either piano rolls, sheet music, or recordings?

Best always,

Rob

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fhimpsl
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Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by fhimpsl » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:46 pm

Hi Rob,

There are precious few other examples of unpublished ragtime by George W. Thomas. I'll post the remainder of those which I've encountered as interlude sections on Thomas' Kimball song rolls. As far as advertised GWT tunes which have never turned up in recorded form or scores, the information sources for these are difficult to access. Thomas did advertise in Chicago area Black news and variety publications in the early 1920s, offering his sheet music and rolls for sale. I'd seen some of these ads years ago but was not able to make reference copies, and haven't had opportunity to consult the Chicago libraries to research that further. Thomas also sometimes advertised titles on the back cover of his published tunes, as the mention of "That Rat Proof Rag" bears out. Most GWT publications are rare, especially those from his New Orleans days. Many of the original sheet back covers are completely blank, if memory serves. I think his song "Be Careful, Mr. Strange Man" was advertised as being available in sheet music form. This one, like TRPR, was issued by Wurlitzer on a coin-op roll.

Thomas' song "Mammy's Little Brown Rose" contains an extended interlude section in minor, which may well have been the principal theme from an unpublished piano rag. It's a very haunting melody, for me. The tune itself is very charming and might have enjoyed greater popularity with wider distribution. "Feed That Mule" has a chorus section which is essentially a piano rag theme, and not a bad one. It also contains the closing section of "That Rat Proof Rag" as an interlude section, possibly a bit different from what was used in the Kimball roll of "The Rocks." Thomas' "Fish Tail Dance" is basically a ragtime number all through, and contains novelty break patterns which were not usually the forte of Black composers (other than Clarence M. Jones, who fully embraced the idiom).

There are three George W. Thomas Kimball song rolls which have never surfaced, to my knowledge. Two are especially notable as being credited credited as collaborations with Thomas' brother Hersal, who was a piano prodigy. The information for these is from a 1924 Kimball music roll catalog:

KI 10100 "Oh, Angel Eyes" (George W. Thomas)
KI 10183 "You Have A Home Somewhere" (George W. Thomas & Hersal Thomas)
KI 10099 "I Love My Boy Better Than I Do Myself" (George W. Thomas & Hersal Thomas)

Every passing year brings new discoveries, so perhaps some day we'll be able to hear these rolls.

All Best,

Frank
Mammy's Little Brown Rose (George W. Thomas) - KI 10449.mid
Feed That Mule (George W. Thomas) - KI 10352.mid
Fish Tail Dance (George W. Thomas) - KI 10592.mid
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Rob C.

Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by Rob C. » Mon Jul 20, 2015 1:48 am

Thanks for the most fascinating detailed reply, Frank! I can't tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your extensive knowledge with us!! Indeed, I do hope those 3 rolls you mentioned turn up. (I was quite surprised when Joplin's "Pleasant Moments" resurfaced after disappearing for decades.) And, knowing that 2 of the missing rolls were co-composed by Hersal makes them all the more tantalizing. If memory serves me correctly, Hersal co-composed the famous boogie-woogie test piece, "The Fives" with brother George.

Thank you, also, for sharing scans of those rolls! I agree that the interlude section of "Mammy's Little Brown Rose" IS haunting. I Llked the chorus of "Feed That Mule" and though you forewarned me, my ear was still surprised to hear a reprise of part of "That Rat Proof Rag" in the midst of a completely different piece. :) Loved "Fish Tail Dance" (!) and the breaks brought big smiles every time! :D Thomas was an outstanding composer. Do you know what year that roll was released? It would be interesting to know when the other two you posted were released, too--so much was happening musically in the teens and early 20's?

Did Thomas eventually stop commissioning piano rolls, or do so right up to the end? Actually, having lived through the 1920's, I'm surprised he didn't make more recordings.

Thanks again, Frank!

Rob

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Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by fhimpsl » Fri Jul 24, 2015 7:40 pm

Hi Rob,

The Kimball roll No. 10592 of George W. Thomas' "Fish Tail Dance" is dated 1925 on the label. As far as I'm aware, that was the last Thomas composition issued on Kimball. The roll of "Mammy's Little Brown Rose" is from 1924. Just based on collecting experience, these rolls must not have sold very well. Several of the surviving copies are in mint condition, which would indicate that they were unsold "store stock." Thomas' piano roll activities were certainly over by 1925. I believe he remained musically active at least up until 1929, as his tune "Sho' Is Hot" from that year was issued on a Meloart piano roll and also a Brunswick 7000 series race record credited to "Thomas' Devils." After his death, Clarence Williams honored him as the "creator of boogie woogie" in a ca. 1939 or so blues folio. But Eubie Blake recalled early players who used the boogie style in ragtime. There are published examples that pre-date Thomas, such as Edward Hudson's "Moonshine Rag" which features a walking bass in the 2nd strain. However, Thomas was the first writer to widely explore the style and commit it to notation, rolls and records. So I think it's fair to say that Williams was right.

All Best,

Frank

Rob C.

Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by Rob C. » Mon Aug 17, 2015 5:50 pm

Thomas, George Washington - Rag Strain (in A Minor) transcription - 1924.pdf
Thomas, George Washington - Rag Strain (in A minor) - transcription - 1924 [72 tempo].mid
Thomas, George Washington - Rag Strain (in A minor) - transcription - 1924 [76 tempo].mid

Hi Frank,

Thanks again for the dates of the rolls! Do you have a date for the roll of "Feed That Mule"? Today I'm posting a transcription (which I'll also post later on "The Rag Thread") of the rag strain included as an interlude on the song roll of "Mammy's Little Brown Rose." The transcription is dedicated to you (as you'll see). Thanks for all you've done to preserve rare ragtime and its history!!

It's interesting that the article I put on the cover of the transcription , dated the week of Jan. 19, 1924, states: "In fact it ["Mammy's Little Brown Rose"] was only turned off the press this week," as The US Copyright Office receipted two published copies on November 12, 1923 (copyright was applied and paid for on Oct. 15, 1923). I don't know if the article was written several weeks earlier (and I would think they'd update it if it had been, as this was a weekly publication), if this was a white lie, an error... it seems unlikely that it would be referring to a second (or even higher) printing, and, even if it was, that statement would still be intentionally misleading.

I thought the article's last paragraph was also of great interest because this means there may be copies of GWT's works in Great Britain and Ireland!!

Frank, I found a really interesting website and wondered if you were aware of it. It's a website devoted to George W. Thomas' blues singer sister, Beulah "Sippie" Wallace. According to a man who knew Sippie for over 20 years and was her manager for part of that time, GWT lost most all his important documents, photos, etc. in a fire in his office in the 1930's (he didn't die, I've discovered, until 1937). Fortunately, Sippie's aunt had a trunk full of historical documents such as letters between Clarence Williams and GWT, etc. which have survived! All these were photocopied and your close friend Michael Montgomery helped organize them. I don't know if Mike mentioned this to you, or, if he did, if you're aware of the website so here's a link: http://www.sippiewallace.com/2014/07/se ... -digitize/

A few comments about the transcription itself...

A sight change in tempo really changes the character of this piece (at least my wife and I feel it does). We think you'll even hear the difference on the 2 midis I've posted with the transcription.

Since this is an interlude, the "end" of the strain is actually a bridge to a reprise of "Mammy's Little Brown Rose." I've left it to the performer to write their own ending.

If you listen to the roll at full speed (for readers who may not know, it's available in the second posting on this page) you may have difficulty hearing the very dissonant left hand chord that ends measures 11, 12, 19 & 20. Don't feel bad if you miss it (feel proud if you don't) as there's a good reason it's difficult to hear. The roll's arranger, like a good ragtime pianist, swung the bass part. So, ON beat eighth notes were lengthened and OFF beat eighth notes were shortened. This particular chord is off-beat and is actually just a tad shorter in length than the sixteenth note D sharp octave in the right hand! Knowing that bit of information will enable you to hear it, even when you hear the roll at full speed. It's even easier to hear this chord if you use VanBasco's Karaoke Player to slow the tempo down (and, if you have the "piano" keyboard activated you'll see it too).

Frank, did you ever make a midi scan that final roll of GWT's, "Sho' is Hot"?

Best,

Rob
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Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by fhimpsl » Sun Aug 23, 2015 3:12 pm

Hi Rob,

Thank you for your fine work in this transcription, which preserves a beautiful little piece of ragtime history for all of us! Your presentation is par excellence, characteristic of all your work. I'm duly honored by your inscription!

The roll of GWT's "Feed That Mule" is dated 1923. I would say that Thomas' comment about "Mammy's Little Brown Rose" being fresh off the press in 1/24 was a bit of an exxageration, probably to generate some excitement about the tune's release. Since as you point out the LOC records show receipt of two copies received in November 1923, Thomas certainly had published copies in hand at least 2-3 months earlier. The "two copies received" deposits were almost always published sheet music with design covers, whereas the "one copy received" material is usually found in manuscript form. However, I remember seeing several examples of 2-copy deposits which were accepted without design covers. These are what was called "professional copies," being fully typeset but lacking any cover art.

I was not aware of the Sippie Wallace website, and was very happy to learn about this. Mike was great friends with Sippie for many years. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet her. Mike kept extensive files about her, but unfortunately I never copied those and am unaware of their current location (Mike's papers were sold privately to my understanding). One thing I remember clearly, that being Sippie never wished to talk about the "New Orleans Days." That is of course unfortunate because obviously such memories would have great value to the history of jazz; concerning Thomas' relationships with Armand Piron, Clarence Williams, Jelly Roll Morton and all the other great jazz artists who migrated up the river to Chicago.

I have appended below the Meloart piano roll of Thomas' "Sho' Is Hot" per your request. The artist "Lee Jackson" is I believe a pseudonym for Woody Frisino, who was a songwriter and staff arranger for the Meloart Co. in Baltimore. Meloart is notable as they issued many blues compositions which are unknown in sheet music form. Their principal market was the Black populace in Baltimore and nearby Washington, D.C. Meloart rolls were poorly distributed and rarely turn up outside the Baltimore/Washington area.

As we discussed the root origins of "boogie-woogie" and GWT''s important role, another important tune deserves mention within the chronology. This is Artie Matthew's "Weary Blues," which was published by Stark in St. Louis in 1915. It is a collection of three 12-bar blues themes, arranged for piano. The second theme features a full boogie-woogie bass, of the type Thomas employed but in this case several years earlier. Mike told me once that the first strain of "Weary Blues" was derived from a strain popular in New Orleans which was generally known as "Shake It And Break It." This is borne out by the existence of a ca. 1919 Imperial piano roll by that title which is credited to one Deering H. Palmer as the artist. This was the actual name of Jack Palmer, co-writer of "Everybody Loves My Baby," and it is his only known roll. I'm appending midi files of piano rolls of "Weary Blues" and the Palmer roll for comparison. Luigi Ranalli did some excellent research concerning the history of the "Shake It And Break It" title, which I believe has been posted within PP. The sheet music for Artie Matthew's "Weary Blues" is available courtesy of Charley Templeton, preserved in the University Of Mississippi:

http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/ ... c/id/29984

Enjoy, and all the best,

Frank
Sho' Is Hot - Blues (George W. Thomas) - pb Lee Jackson - Meloart 1581.mid
Weary Blues (Artie Matthews) - UN 302383.mid
Shake It And Break It - pb Deering H. Palmer - IMP 512970.mid
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Rob C.

Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by Rob C. » Mon Aug 31, 2015 1:22 pm

Dear Frank,

WOW, my wife and I LOVE "Sho' is Hot"!!!!! Thanks SO MUCH for posting this rare roll! Thomas was CLEARLY still in top form! And this was never published? What a shame!

Thanks also for "Weary Blues" and "Shake it and Break It"! The first strains are definitely from the same floating strain. "Shake it and Break It" is such a fine bluesy piece!! I'm always amazed at how much GREAT music is nearly unknown.

Very best,

Rob

Rob C.

Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by Rob C. » Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:18 pm

Thomas, George W. - Fish Tail Dance - 1925 (Piano Roll Transcription).pdf
Thomas, George W. - Fish Tail Dance - 1925 [midi of the Piano Roll Transcription].mid
Hello Everyone!

The promised "Fish Tail Dance" transcription is complete! It took longer than expected to transcribe the score and I did a lot of extra research for this piece. Some of the discoveries I made I've shared with you in the notes that accompany the score (a few others, not included in the notes, are in this posting).

I did transcribe LH embellishments, such as sixteenth note triplets. But, the bulk of the LH is the traditional: octave, chord, octave, chord, with some rolled tenths interspersed throughout. Feel free to simplify the score to fit your preferences! If, for example, you'd like to change those triplets to swinging quarter notes, this tune will still sound great. However, if you'd like to "sound like a piano roll," you have that option too!

Frank, I searched in all the copyright entries catalogs (beginning in 1901) for every George W. Thomas composition and found he did copyright one last piece after the 1929 roll of "Sho' is Hot." (Interestingly, Thomas copyrighted the song title "Sho' is Hot" twice, once in 1926, then in 1929--words and melody only). This final copyright, a song for which he wrote both the words and music, was entitled "I Don't Love Nobody But You." The LOC received one copy on December 17, 1936. (This must be a manuscript as the rules were: two copies required for a published version, only one for a manuscript.) Another song of great interest (also a manuscript) was, "They Needed a Piano Player in Heaven So They Sent for Hersal," copyrighted exactly two weeks after the tragic premature death of his brother, Hersal.

It intrigued me that Thomas almost exclusively copyrighted songs! I was surprised at the number of songs that were collaborations, and, that so many collaborations were done with different people. I wonder if he was sometimes hired to write music to someone else's lyrics.

I only found five instrumental (all for solo piano) copyrights written by Thomas (he copyrighted some of Hersal's work, too). One, "Gary Blues," you have a roll of. Was that ever published? Another interesting piano solo title was "Hog's Grunt" from December of 1926 (four months earlier he copyrighted a song called "Pig Meat"--he only wrote the music for this one, Lettie Williams wrote the words). Have you ever heard of "Hog's Grunt"?

Enjoy the music everyone and my best to all!

Rob

PS: To ensure that everyone who wants a copy of this score sees that it's available, I'll also post this score and midi in the "Rags" and the "School of Syncopation" threads.
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Dannen
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Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by Dannen » Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:33 am

Nearly a decade ago, I transcribed the Freddie Rich Duo-Art piano roll of Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm." Since, like many piano roll artists (including Gershwin himself) Rich overdubbed his performance by playing a secondo part on a second pass, I transcribed the performance for four hands. I was never certain my transcription was playable, but last night I performed it at the Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende with the Cuban pianist Fidel Leal. Luckily for me, Fidel played the primo part, which is far more difficult. Score is attached. A YouTube video of the performance can be found here:

https://youtu.be/To25JIwbIjg
Gershwin - Fascinating Rhythm (Freddie Rich piano roll, four hands).pdf
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Jean-Séb
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Re: Piano Roll Transcriptions

Post by Jean-Séb » Sat Aug 10, 2019 6:28 pm

Nice transcription. Thank you.

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