17. Alex Hassan, Phantom Fingers
(1998, Stomp Off Records)
Instrumental solo disc by a ragtime/"novelty piano" specialist; I'm not sure where he's based (the main scene for this stuff seems to be the Bay Area), but I have to assume he's done a fair bit of silent film accompaniment. Tracked it down b/c I wanted to hear a recording of "The Angel Cake Lady and The Gingerbread Man," (Jasmyn Joan/M.K. Jerome) a song that Bree's been working on for her next show. (We learn the songs from sheet music.) Hassan plays it faster than I'd ever be able to, with much tricky chromatic embellishment that is pretty much the point of this specialized style -- anyway, no one would sing it that fast, so it doesn't matter, but it's good to get some idea about voicings and adding to the written harmony. The bulk of the CD is in the same vein -- it's hard to describe the precise rhythmic profile of this style, which you wouldn't exactly call "swinging," but which doesn't follow classical performance canons either. (See "Three Syncopated Romances." The brilliance of Hassan's pianism (and that of the overly bright recording) can be enervating in large doses, though there are a few more sensitive performances, as of this tune. What I really wish is that lyrics had been included for those songs that have them. I mean -- "Igloo Stomp (Will Thaw Icicles)"? "Mindin' the Baby"? "I Breathe on Windows"? Might have to write that last one myself.