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Previous Next Up Topic Ноты / разное / Коментарий Chuck Guzis к "The Junk Man Rag" (англ.)
By partita (нет опубликованных сообщений) Date 05.01.2009 [19:32]
"The Junk Man Rag"

Attached you will find the Sibelius file for "The Junk Man Rag"  by Charles Luckyth Roberts from 1913.  The music was taken from a 1913 wind band arrangement by William H. Tyers.  I have gone through and made numerous corrections to the original and re-set the piccolo and horn parts for more conventional instruments.

You may notice that a large number of instruments are called for.  It was not intended by the arrangers of the time that all indicated instruments were required.  Using the widest possible scoring, the publisher could make the work more appealing to the largest number of bands, regardless of the number of players.

By "not fast", I think an appropriate tempo would be about 100-108.

Here is what I could find about Roberts:

The birth date for Charles "Luckey" Roberts varies depending on source, including Roberts himself. While August 7 is mostly consistent (August 2 has been seen, but perhaps misread), his WW1 Draft Card shows 1889, while his WW2 registration shows 1891, and some sources cite 1892. One passenger manifest shows 1894. A number of biographical sources show birth years as far back as 1887 and as late as 1895, a pretty wide variance. Either he was also not sure, or just changed the age to suit the situation. That he also seems to have sometimes evaded Federal Census takers is another frustrating enigma, perhaps having used a different name, as deep searches have not found anything definitive. This was sometimes the case with traveling entertainers, as they were often not at home during the period when Census takers tried to account for them. Robert's birth place of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is consistent in any case.

A small guy with a big heart and even bigger hands. That was Luckey Roberts. He was born to William L.Roberts, a self-trained veterinarian, and Elizabeth Roberts, who tragically died just three weeks after her son's birth. His father, unable to handle the sudden burden, placed Charles with a Quaker show business family that he knew, the Ringolds, who were involved with vaudeville. His first stage appearances were with a troupe performing "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in which he simply slept on stage as a toddler. Later, his diminutive size helped to shape his original profession at the age of five, a tumbler on the vaudeville stage. His father was still involved in his life and visited often. Roberts took to the piano right away, and his father helped encourage this by getting professional lessons for his young son. Fairly soon he became an all around showman. He never made it beyond 4'10" (about 1.5 m), but his hands could  reportedly reach something just short of two octaves, one octave and a fifth at the very least. He also had a very strong physique, perhaps over-proportionate to his size. Having been born a Pennsylvania Quaker, he abstained from alcohol throughout his life, a rather amazing feat when you  consider where he played and that he owned a popular bar in his adopted Harlem home.

In 1911, having established himself firmly playing up through Atlantic City and now Manhattan, Luckey got a job as a musical director with producers Homer Tutt and Salem Tutt Whitney in their Southern Smart Set Company, an off-Broadway troupe. It was here that he met Lena Sanford who he would eventually be married to for over 40 years. She appears on his 1917 draft record. Roberts was the first of the Harlem school of pianist/composers to be published. He met composer/arranger Artie Matthews in Cincinnati in 1912, and Matthews arranged Luckey's "Junk Man Rag" for publication.

Ultimately, it was an arrangement of the same piece by Will Tyers that saw wide distribution, and that work led to publication of other great compositions like "Music Box Rag" and the dynamic "Pork and Beans". Many of the pieces he allegedly composed during the 1910s did not appear in print, but were recorded in the 1940s and 1950s. Some were simply too complex to notate given their range and subtleties. Just the same, he was the earliest of the Harlem stride pianists to record as well, cutting a number of discs in 1916 for Columbia Records. Also in the mid teens, Roberts became an inspiration and sort of a mentor
to a young boy who wanted to learn jazz, even before it had a name, and closely studied the master's playing. There would be a time in the near future that the boy would pick up many of those moves and make a name for himself as George Gershwin. Some of Gershwin's performance attributes and tricks were originally learned from Roberts, and then applied in new ways.

Ultimately, Luckey Roberts ended up as a life-long performer. He befriended most of the best pianists that frequented New York, including life-long friends Eubie Blake and Willie "The Lion" Smith plus many charter members of James Reese Europe's Clef Club. He was part of Europe's famed platoon during WW1, and collectively they all took France by storm both in a military and musical capacity. Once back he worked as a Broadway composer from time to time, and also
started his own society orchestra that became quite the rage, and  regularly played parties for the elite 400 (the most influential 400 families) in New York, Rhode Island, and Palm Beach in Florida, the latter about which he penned one of his early stride pieces. His orchestra and occasional recording dates on both records and piano rolls kept him occupied throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In 1923 Roberts and his frequent collaborator Alex Rogers contributed songs to the Broadway musical "Go Go" which ran for 138 performances both in Manhattan and in Harlem, though not a huge success.They followed this that same year with "Sharlee" which ran only one month. Another attempt was made by the duo and a producer in 1926 with "My Magnolia" which only made it through four performances in front of fickle New Yorkers. It would not be Robert's last attempt at stage pieces, however.

Along with his friend and fellow musician James P. Johnson, Roberts was one of the early progenitors of what became known as Harlem stride piano. The reach of his hands certainly helped enable this, but given his size it also help to perpetuate a rumor for many years (unfounded and unlikely) that he had the webbing of his hands surgically altered to enable that reach. Fats Waller, Eubie Blake and Johnson who all had similar reaches should help disprove this story. His prowess with stride piano was centered more in his playing than in composing, like his counterparts. Many of his contemporaries marveled not only at his reach but his great strength and control over subtleties as well. He could break down a piano in short order with his hard an percussive style, but if he liked the tone of a particular instrument he could caress wonderful tunes out of it as well. Among other admirers and proteges were Duke Ellington, "Fatha" Earl Hines and singer Ethel Waters.

Roberts gained new notoriety in the 1940s with his Harlem night spot, the Rendezvous, which featured him and his friends, and always had good entertainment. There were major performances with his 55-piece International Symphonic-Syncopated Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in Manhattan. He even had a minor radio hit with "Moonlight Cocktail", a derivative song from his "Ripples of the Nile", which was recorded a few times over the next decade. During his time in New York he survived muggings and robberies in his restaurant, a series of small strokes, and two major car accidents, one of which shattered his talented hands. But he fully recovered, and after retiring in the mid 1950s, made a fabulous recording for the Good Time Jazz label. This, along with a set he did for Circle Records in the mid 1940s, are among the best surviving echoes of the era of Ragtime and Stride piano. Roberts was also present with his friend Willie "The Lion" Smith for the August 1958 photo by Art Kane, "A Great Day In Harlem," published in Esquire magazine, although Smith was hiding from the heat when the official photo was finally taken. Luckey was the oldest musician in the photograph.

In spite of his age, Roberts refused to fully retire. He even attempted two last musicals, "Emalina" and "Old Golden Brown", the latter a sort of musical autobiography. Neither were ultimately produced, but one of his final tunes, "Exclusively with You", has had some performances. When Roberts died while staying at the Mayflower Nursing Home in 1968, he was in very good financial shape, having made over two million dollars in astute real estate deals over the decades, and running his music and nightclub businesses very effectively.

Chuck Guzis
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