I had seen your article on The Red Back Book some years ago but am inspired to respond to it for some reason now. As an NEC student I was one of the recording engineers on the album, went on to create my own group (The American Ragtime Ensemble), play with the NERE in their last four tours, and actually found by accident an original set of “Red Back Book” parts (actually called Standard High-Class Rags), only the 2nd complete set ever found. You can read the whole story on my site at the Oddities page. I had worked closely with Gunther while in school as both a violinist and recording/sound tech. Check out the wiki site for New England Ragtime Ensemble, which I co-edited with the flute player David Reskin (yes, very similar names).
The question of what might constitute an "authentic" performance of classic ragtime is insoluble. and his contemporaries were pianists who composed their music on, and for, the piano. But the average listener in the decade beginning in 1900 often heard instrumental ragtime in arrangements for small ensembles like Michigan's , heard on this album. and other composers often orchestrated their rags in this way, and his publisher, Missourian John Stark, issued a collection of such orchestrations under the title The Red Back Book: Standard High Class Rags. The title is a little inaccurate in the case of the present album, most of whose numbers, but not all, appeared in the publication. In many respects, however, this is an impressive reconstruction on the part of what appears to be an amateur ensemble. The group assembled a complete set of parts (no simple feat in itself), using material from a New Orleans archive that once belonged to early jazzman Bunk Johnson. And their performances have a charming lyricism and freedom that stand in contrast to the rather stiff renditions still available from the first flowering of the ragtime revival in the 1970s. The parts for violin and cello emerge more clearly from the texture here than in other performances, and the stringed instruments add a dimension of sentiment -- in turn nicely set off against big march rhythms in more propulsive pieces like 's The Cascades (track 4). Sample 's sublime Grace and Beauty: A Classy Rag (track 9) for a taste of this group's style at its best -- they are not a virtuoso ensemble, but they have an infectious enthusiasm for the sweet aspect of classic ragtime that so often gets lost. Highly recommended for libraries that wish to represent this way of performing ragtime, and as well for anyone who enjoys the genre.
I’ll bet there are some business and life lessons in ragtime, too. Far too long since I’ve owned a copy of The Red Back Book. My vinyl copy seems to have disappeared.
I bought the Red Back Book when it first came out and wore the grooves off it. I also bought the second NERC album but I cannot remember the name. It had Peacherine Rag on it, in a wonderful arrangement. When NERC played Blossom Music Center in the Summer of 1973 or 74, I had front row seats. When they got to the second section of Peacherine the whole place erupted in cheers and applause for the great arrangement it was. I’ll never forget that.
I am looking for a score copy of 'The Red Back Book', a set of Scott Joplin songs recorded on Capitol Records. The closest knowledge I have to its existance is a note on the record sleeve - "Scores and instrumental parts of 'The Red Back Book' are scheduled for 1973 publication by Fanfare Press" However, I have not been able to obtain information on either the book itself, or if the publishers are still around. I am after the possibility of purchasing the score, or at the very least getting in contact with the publishers.