John Roache is pleased to announce the release of his new CD,
"Hot Kumquats and Other Frosty Treats",
Containing eighteen new and never-before-recorded
stride/ragtime compositions of Robin Frost. These HOT, 30's style
piano pieces are sure to please. Listen to the RealAudio and MPEG Stereo sound clips
and decide for yourself.....This is ONE HOT PIANO ALBUM!
John has already received some compliments from his fans about the new CD.
Click here to read some of them.
| Ordering Information
Liner Notes Song List &
Don't miss my other CD, "Syncopated Odyssey"
About Robin Frost and John Roache -By Alex Hassan and Irwin Schwartz
As a performer, collector, researcher, periodic recording solo pianist and fanatic devotee (for some 25 years) of 20s-30s two-fisted popular playing styles, let me state UNEQUIVOCALLY: "Robin Frost is the finest composer of stride/post-ragtime/novelty--most ANY syncopated solo piano idiom--since the GOLDEN AGE." With a brilliant piano technique of his own, advanced compositional training (to supplement natural talents), a melodic gift that won't quit, wit and imagination, this "font" of rhythm and snappy tunes, at a very youthful 68, to this day continues to delight and amaze his ever-growing fan club with a seemingly (and fortunately) never-ending stream of memorable solos.
Robin was born in Wash., DC to a very musically literate family, and after moving to California in the mid-30s, received extensive training in both classical and popular music, including a teacher who moonlighted as a department store sheet music song-plugger. Said teacher taught him how to pianistically dress-up tunes for maximum effect--the ability only deepened with experience. Amongst his great early passions: Gershwin, Debussy, Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. Frost studied for a while with Hollywood film composer, Eric Zeisl, who likely nurtured our man's innate gifts for composition and harmony, including the use of "thorns" (as Robin so amusingly puts it) in otherwise tonal chords, that actually make them lusher! He started writing these exceptional solos in 1979, a few years after the "Sting" revival, and has, over the years, performed them in various music hall venues and ragtime festivals (though he vastly prefers composition to concertizing!).
Frost's fully-scored, concert-quality solos will, by their very nature, never be fully marketable. The virtuoso nature on the majority of his output precludes even most classical concert pianists from doing them justice (not to speak of ATTEMPTING them!)--ya' don't learn the striding left-hand technique at Juilliard or Curtis! For those lucky few of us that can fudge their way through the Frostian delectations included on this disc, the rewards are many, including a smiling, if not GAPING, audience! Can somebody REALLY write this way in 1998??!!
There is, by definition, NO fudging to be found in John Roache's interpretations. John is likely the preeminent purveyor of computer Midi performance. In many respects, this is a modern equivalent of piano roll arranging, but allowing for much greater precision, both rhythmically and dynamically. John inputs Robin's scores into his computer from an electronic keyboard, and then works aural wonders, digitally editing the score with tempo, rhythm and dynamic subtleties. The approximation of grand piano sound is remarkable. AND, Robin's treacherous (though eminently pianistic--obviously written by a fine pianist--everything "fits" the fingers) scores are rendered with note perfection and toe-tapping excitement. (Robin now writes specifically for Midi, no longer fretting about missed notes, memory lapses, practice sessions, audiences...!) It might not be ultimately human, but a very high standard has been set for future performances/recordings. Enjoy the CD for what it is--a knockout demonstration not only of John's "Midifications", but a series of truly great, wonderfully retro, witty solos (just look at the titles!) by the man of the hour, Robin Frost. Ya' can't help but enjoy!
John Roache, a resident and native of Southern California and a pharmacist by profession, has been playing the (acoustic) piano for almost fifty years. He was one of the original experimenters with electronic ragtime music. His first collection of computer ragtime was commercially published in 1985. As this collection of music demonstrates, John is very good at what he does with MIDI. He is a scrupulous and demanding musician who I know from personal experience will spend as many hours as are necessary to perfect a single measure of music. It is that attention to detail that places him in the top tier of MIDI sculptors. It is not unusual for one composition to require three months from data entry to final version. The result of John’s meticulous approach to sequencing is very well-fashioned and superior music. John is a perfectionist. “I am frustrated when I cannot play the music I ‘hear’ in my head,” he says. “MIDI sequencing gives me the tool I need to realize the dream of perfectly producing music which is too difficult for my fingers to play.”
with MIDI Demo Clips
Please Note: Since the clips are COMPRESSED AUDIO, the music you hear
is NOT CD QUALITY. Do not judge the audio quality of the CD from these clips.)
Music Notes (Robin Frost's comments in italics, Alex Hassan's are capitalized)
Track 1. "HOT KUMQUATS" was written on the computer because I wanted to write a fast number in minor mode. It is amazing and amusing to behold the virtuosity of my electronic piano racing along prestissimo with nary a clam nor a clinker. Art Tatum, eat your heart out! Reminds me of John Henry and the steam hammer. I guess I was warming up for "Running On The Rims".
ONE OF ROBIN'S HOTTEST--BREATHTAKING STRIDE--GREAT FOR MIDI INTERPRETATION--OTHERWISE GUARANTEED CARPAL TUNNEL FOR THE PIANIST, SHOULD ONE EVER ATTEMPT IT!
If you would like to hear the complete track, try these links to the sound files on my IUMA web page
Track 2. "COOL SUMMER" was written on a warm summer day with a fan going full blast. I was trying, in this piece, to write accents, dynamics and durations as similar as possible to those of a live, hot pianist, and also, to write something that might possibly be played by a virtuoso. The 16th note scales in the 2nd part, though playable by a conservatory trained pianist, are the stuff of computer MIDI, rather than that of a casual dabbler at the keyboard.
A SUPER PIECE FOR MIDI, WHAT WITH THE WELL-THOUGHT-OUT EXCHANGES OF LEFT AND RIGHT HAND FAST FILIGREE. SOMEWHAT BLUESY FEEL, WITH EXCEPTIONAL MELODIES, YET AGAIN!
Track 3. "THREE LOST BODIES" was so named because I had just begun writing with the Encore music composition software, saving my efforts in a disk directory called 3dbody. I had the discouraging experience of suddenly seeing a piece that was turning out fairly well disappear into a black hole in cyberspace. The details of what I did wrong aren't interesting, but I tried to remember how the tune went and rewrote it, "saving" it at regular intervals. The result turned out to be the aforementioned.
POSSIBLY THE FINEST STRIDE SOLO EVER PUT ON PAPER--MELODIES GALORE--GERSHWINESQUE LEFT HAND FIGURES TOWARDS THE END OF A GREAT MINOR KEY SECTION AND ONE STRETCH, A COUPLE OF PAGES IN, THAT'S SO HOT THAT THE PIANIST IS JUMPIN' AS MUCH AS THE LISTENER!
Track 4. "DOIN' THE SHIM-SHAM" is about a tap dance step of that name that was popularized by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, one of the greatest tap dancers ever. I usually think up the name of a piece after it's almost finished. And I, and most composers, usually begin by noodling around on the piano, although there are those who hear a melody, a chord, or just feel a mood. Doin' the Shim-Sham was the result of noodling.
WE SHOULD ALL 'NOODLE' SO WELL! A WONDERFUL LAST SECTION MELODY. THIS IS ONE OF ROBIN'S EARLIER (1989) COMPOSITIONS WHICH WAS WRITTEN B.C. (BEFORE COMPUTER) AND IS ADMITTEDLY ONE OF HIS PERSONAL FAVORITES.
Track 5. "ALLIGATOR GRAVY" was suggested by a meal of alligator meat I ate in a Cajun restaurant. I always enjoy trying new kinds of tastes and textures and unusual kinds of meat or fish. I tried to suggest a southern flavor in the melodies and harmonies of this piece, as well as the ferocity of that reptile.
ANOTHER GREAT LAST SECTION MELODY, AFTER A FAIRLY FEROCIOUS OPENING!
Track 6. "BOZO PANTS" was so named because my imagination was being taxed to come up with new titles for the burgeoning assortment of notes taking up space and bytes on the "C:" drive. I happened to hit on a catchy little tune that the editor seemed to like, hence its inclusion in this collection. One of the mysteries that composers are always trying to solve is just what is it that makes a tune catchy. It has a lot to do with repetition and sequences, but simply writing something repetitious can annoy listeners, instead of "catching" them.
GREAT TITLE, DELIGHTFUL SOLO.
Track 7. "L'APRÈS-MIDI D'UN RAISIN" was written for my first appearance at the West Coast Ragtime Festival in Fresno, California. Fresno is an important raisin growing area so I imagined a raisin enthralled by Debussy's ballet with a similar title. So the raisin dons a fawn costume and tries a few Nijinskyesque steps. This explains the whole-tone harmonies in the 2nd part.
ROBIN'S FERVID IMAGINATION: A RAISIN IS ENTHRALLED BY A DEBUSSY ORCHESTRAL COMPOSITION, AND PROCEEDS TO DANCE. SOME MARVELOUS PIANO NOVELTY PASSAGEWORK.
Track 8. "SUMMER SOLACE" was written around the time of the solstice. Again I tried for a kind of southern fried flavor. This flavor was invented by nameless Tin Pan Alley composers to evoke a kind of nostalgia for The South, possibly suggesting a simpler time and place than the increasingly hectic urban environment so many people found themselves in. These kinds of harmonies and melodies were very popular in the 1920's.
Track 9. "LOBBO AIM" was so titled because I got interested in the phonetic spelling of foreign words. I found I had to decide more and more whether to write a piece playable by human hands, or just create an unplayable fantasy that sounded spectacular. If one is writing music solely for a computer to play, playableness is not only secondary, it is completely unnecessary.
ANOTHER APPROPRIATELY MIDIFIED SOLO--A REAL HOOT--ROBIN'S PSEUDONYM FOR THIS PIECE: JOCK O'MOPU CHEENEY. THE PIANIST IS INSTRUCTED, AT ONE POINT, TO RHYTHMICALLY STATE: "WHUB-BA DUB-BA DING-A-DING A-BOO-BOO-BOO"-- OBVIOUSLY MEANT FOR A STAID, CARNEGIE-HALLER! OBVIOUSLY A TONGUE-IN-CHEEK COMMENT SINCE THIS WAS WRITTEN FOR COMPUTER!
Track 10. "SUMMER DAWN" is one of my own favorites. I write music in all kinds of meters and styles. Some of the things I've written were to test the capabilities of the Encore software, but Summer Dawn just happened because I got off on the right foot. After a while I found I was in that wonderfully decadent mood the Austrians call schmutz, literally meaning "dirt" but with completely different connotations. Fritz Kreisler wrote lots of music with this feeling, although he was galaxies ahead of me as regards quality, when he wasn't pretending to be Vivaldi. A waltz is a good medium in which to learn to write melody, the sine qua non of all music.
ROBIN WRITES A GORGEOUS, LUXURIOUSLY HARMONIZED WALTZ--DON'T FAST FORWARD!!
Track 11. "TEMPERATURE" is like Cool Summer, having been written during a heat wave. I discovered how to create a tenor line by tying the top note of the "oom" in the left hand to the "pah" on the off beats. Although this isn't really playable by conventional technique (Oh well, who cares about that?), a skillful pianist can bring out tenor lines with a strong left thumb.
ROLLICKING, INTRICATE SOLO, WITH ONE MORE SPLENDID, HUMMABLE MELODIC SECTION IN THE MIDDLE.
Track 12. "ROGER'S FAVORITE TOY" was about a little rich boy with so many toys that, as he sits in his room engulfed by them, his mother, grandmother and governess are discussing, at a discreet distance, how to alleviate the clutter without the boy throwing a tantrum. Such bourgeois decadence!
GREAT CHARM, AND VERY DIFFICULT. BLESS THE MIDI!
Track 13. "JELLYFISH OMELET" is a title I thought of while imagining a dietician who is also a hypnotist implanting unappetizing images in a client.
CRAZY RHYTHM, BROUGHT INTO THE 90'S! PIANIST EATS POISONOUS SEA CREATURE, AND STUMBLES AROUND IN VARYING TIME SIGNATURES??
Track 14. "BLUE RONDEAU" was an attempt to write a very moderne sounding (ala 1928) piano novelty number in rondo form. It isn't really ragtime at all, but when I played it at Old Town Music Hall around 1988 or '89 I heard no complaints. I spelled it the French way so as to look pretentious.
VIRTUOSO STUFF--WHAT ELSE IS NEW??!!
Track 15. "IN ORBIT" A SNAZZY LAST SECTION MELODY, YET AGAIN! TO BE PLAYED "WEIGHTLESSLY"! ROBIN'S CLEVER ILLUSTRATION TO THIS SOLO'S SHEET MUSIC: NOTES ON SATURN'S RINGS!!
Track 16. "UNCONFIRMED REPORT" was rewritten after Alex Hassan said he felt that the first and last parts were, frankly, not as good as the middle part in minor mode. This part is supposed to express the feelings of a dancer with a broken heart who has to go on stage and dance a joyously peppy dance and doesn't at all feel like it, but she does it anyway, like a real trouper.
MODERATELY FAST SOLO, THOUGH MELODICALLY BLUESY. MIDDLE SECTION MELODY SOUNDS RIGHT OUT OF 1940'S HOLLYWOOD FILM-NOIRE! SOOPOIB!
Track 17. "FRIDAY BY THE LAKE" was an attempt to write a relaxed piece with a largely non stride left hand, and a mood suggestive of the happy title. Lakes and Fridays are beloved by the great majority of people, so I thought I'd combine the two.
LOVELY, MORE SEDATE SOLO FROM OUR HIGH-ENERGY RHYTHM-SPINNER. QUITE PLAYABLE, AND HAS A NOSTALGIC, RAGGY FEEL AT TIMES.
Track 18. "RUNNING ON THE RIMS" was originally titled "Urban Style" but was renamed after watching a freeway chase on television in which the miscreant's tires had disintegrated and sparks were shooting out from under the car. I had already sent this piece with its original title in to my editor before the television coverage, but I thought it would be fun to comment on a regularly televised event, so I renamed this piece. I experimented with the computer's ability to transpose passages into different keys in this piece.
A REAL STRIDIN'-STOMPIN' ENDING TO THE CD. ROLLER-COASTER TIME.
Copyright 1998 John Roache Music. All Rights Reserved.
Last updated July 28, 1999
Last updated July 28, 1999