Famous Ragtime Guitar Solos - Ton Van Bergeyk

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Famous Ragtime Guitar Solos - Ton Van Bergeyk

1 CD(s) - Jazz Instrument - Label: Acoustic Music - Distributor: Discovery - Released: 04/05/2010 - 4013429114353

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Review of "Famous Ragtime Guitar Solos - Ton Van Bergeyk"

published 12/12/2015 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
Reviews : 286
Members who trust : 72
About me :
Best wishes to all, and thanks for your kind rates and comments, have been half-expecting the latest announcement for at least the last year. Have thoroughly enjoyed being a member over the last couple of years or so.
Pro Upbeat, uplifting, melodic, foot-tapping
Cons Single, very specific genre only represented
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money

"A "Ton" of great ragtime guitar playing"

Famous Ragtime Guitar Solos - Ton Van Bergeyk

Famous Ragtime Guitar Solos - Ton Van Bergeyk

“Ragtime” guitar

“Ragtime” is short for “ragged time”, a style of music, particularly for dancing to, made popular in the 1920s and 1930s. It’s basically a syncopated musical style. If you know the film “The Sting” (one of my favourite movies), its soundtrack is made up of some prime examples. It’s easier to recognise than to describe. There’s a definite and pronounced beat, but the tune is almost without exception melodic, bouncy and light-hearted. What is there not to like about it as a style?!

Originally played on piano it wasn’t long before other instruments were used for playing the catchy style. It overlaps considerably with blues music, and a number of blues guitar players and singers turned their hand to the style.

I am prejudiced, I know, as I adore this genre played on steel-strung acoustic guitar. I find it uplifting, relaxing and compelling. I understand that it isn’t to everyone’s liking, but I genuinely feel that more people would appreciate it if they gave it a try.

Hence this review.

I’ll be honest, when I joined Ciao my main aim was to make a few extra quid to go to my retirement fund. But I also wanted to share some of my favourite music – and some other media – with those gullible enough to read any reviews I might write. I know that this may raise a bit of a credibility barrier, as all my reviews to date have been 4 or 5 star ones. The reality is that I’m still working through those favourites, and in time some of my star-awarding may be more varied if or when I review some less than favourite items. I’m afraid that as my CD collection is gradually approaching the 400 mark it may be some time before I work my way down to 3-star ratings! We’ll see!

Anyway, where ragtime guitar is concerned I feel that this album is hard to beat. Often ragtime guitar tunes make up a small part of otherwise “blues” albums. I like acoustic blues as well, but it’s an acquired taste. To me the strength of this album is that it is, as its title states, ragtime from start to finish, fourteen tracks in all. I’ve listed this as a disadvantage only because some might prefer more varied material. It just depends where your tastes lie. It’s also because if I say “None” for disadvantages too often it might seem that I’m not being objective enough!

Who the heck...?

A generous-hearted colleague who knew that I love acoustic guitar music gave me this as vinyl some years ago. I’d also come across one track from it a guitar music book for which an accompanying audio cassette (anyone remember those?!) could be obtained. The book was one of the great Stefan Grossman’s many contributions to lesser mortals. I’ve reviewed one of his CDs separately, but briefly he is one of the world’s foremost acoustic blues/ragtime players and authorities alive, and cited by Clapton with respect. As well as learning his trade first hand from some of the legendary players from the 1920s-1930s who were rediscovered in the 1960s, Stefan set about producing tutor material like there was no tomorrow. He set up his own record label in the 1970s.

The story of how he encountered Ton van Bergeyk from the Netherlands is told in the notes that accompany this CD but it bears repeating. Stefan had already met one or two Dutch acoustic guitar players. One of them Leo Wijnkamp Jnr passed Stefan’s contact details on to one of his friends, Ton.

The following Christmas Stefan received a Christmas card from a stranger. On the back was a music transcription of a “classic” ragtime tune, Silver Swan. Initially dismissing it as a bogus card, Stefan’s curiosity got the better of him. He worked through the tablature (that’s a kind of special music notation for guitar players) and realised that here was a wonderful arrangement of that tune.

The outcome was inevitable. Contact was made, Ton Van Bergeyk recorded an album of solo ragtime tunes in Stefan’s home (he considered a proper studio setting less beneficial), and it was released.

The album

Now this gem is available in CD format. It’s a delight to listen to, beautifully played and upbeat, packed with hummable and foot-tappable instrumental tunes. For any guitar player brave enough to try his or her hands at playing the material, the CD also contains a PDF “booklet” that contains tablature for every one of the tunes featured. That’s pretty good in my estimation, given the cost of “sheet music”. It’s enough to challenge a player for a sizeable chunk of a lifetime, but at least the CD is there to shed light on how it’s supposed to sound!

The accompanying sleeve notes outline something of what sets Ton apart from the crowd of fellow-ragtime players of his day. he was able to play both “classic” ragtime tunes originally composed for, and played on piano. More remarkably he was able to take an arrangement then adapt it to make it flow more easily from six strings rather than a keyboard. He was also able to master some of the styles of the great ragtime guitar players such as Blind Blake and Rev. Gary Davis. He was also able to play music in their style, incorporating some of their “licks and tricks” into other existing tunes or tunes of his own composition.

The CD comes in a jewel case with a delightful retro front cover and interesting and informative notes. Some technical information of interest to guitar players only is contained in the notes, but the notes aren’t by any means confined to guitar technicalities.

The tunes

Some of this may well mean little to some readers. In any case, as the material on this CD is confined to a very specific genre, and as it is all played (extremely adeptly, I hasten to add) on solo acoustic steel strung guitar, it’s difficult to make much meaningful comment on each track without undue repetition, especially when trying to describe the tunes to someone unfamiliar with them.

I mention the steel-strung guitar because it gives a bit of “bite” or crispness to the sound. I do like some classical guitar but nylon strings are very mellow. They are perfect for classical music (or pieces arranged in that style) and for flamenco. But there aren’t many players who can play ragtime (or similar styles) of music on a nylon-strung instrument. The sound really is enhanced by the crisper sound of steel strings.

Ton’s playing is a well-balanced sound. Some performing and recording artists (such as Stefan Grossman and Ralph McTell) hit the bass strings fairly hard to emphasise the beat. Ton’s sound is a more even balance between the bass, middle and top strings. Different strokes for different folks as the saying goes; neither approach is more “correct” or better than the other. In fact the more evenly balanced sound on this album probably makes it a little more accessible.

A browse through the tracklist will reveal a title, “Ragtime Nightmare”. You don’t have to be a genius to guess that this is a difficult tune to play; you wouldn’t guess so from Ton’s playing of it, though! Interestingly in the sleeve notes he recounts how he found certain sections of some tunes surprisingly straightforward to play while other, apparently straightforward sections proved remarkably difficult to master!

~ Blake’s Breakdown #2 ~

(As a Brit, it grieves me to use the # symbol to indicate “number” or “no”, but this is a US-produced album!)

As mentioned above, Blake played blues and ragtime guitar. He had a unique trick of dragging (or “stumbling” his right thumb from one bass string to the adjacent one within one beat to give a Charleston-type feel. Instead of the bass sounding boom... boom.... boom.... boom (with notes on the higher strings playing a melody line both on and between the beats) Blake’s sound varied this at times with a be-boom... boom... be-boom... boom. This particular tune is a dedication to Blake by Ton, played in his style, rather than a rendition of a particular tune of his.

Upbeat, this tune always gets my foot tapping away from the start, and the tune is melodic, too. It’s super stuff!

~ King Porter Stomp ~

This is an adaptation of a Jellyroll Morton tune with a Blind Blake “flavour” to it.

~ Atlanta Rag ~

Ton arranged this by ear; he adopted that approach for some tunes, for others he got the music on paper and worked on it from there (including deciding on the best key and the best way to tune the guitar to optimise sound and playability).

~ Pineapple Rag ~

This cheerful, cheeky sounding tune composed by Scott Joplin was used as part of The Sting’s soundtrack. If you know the film you will recognise it. To me it’s one of the very best of the tunes on this album.

~ Silver Swan ~

I’ve already alluded to this in my introductory remarks. I find it simply gorgeous. It has a slower tempo than some of the tunes on the CD, but it is anything other than downbeat. It’s just that the tempo is more measured. It has a lovely part played by sounding “harmonics” that give a half-muted ringing sound rather then the more usual and fuller-sounding way of forming notes. In the notes Ton says that it was the only way he could combine the higher notes but still keep the bass notes going, but the sound – and the tune – are, to me, quite magical and the absolute highlight of an album without any duff tracks.

Final word

There isn’t much more to add, except to say that although this CD is confined to one style and to one-guitar arrangements it isn’t all “samey” – at least not to my mind. There is considerable variation in tune and tempo to sustain my interest with repeated listenings. 4 stars from me – I could go the whole hog and give it 5, but I’m trying not to appear over-effusive and am trying to reflect the single-genre content of the album that for some (not me!) may be a disadvantage.

Please note that I had to select "standard" for the lyrics. A "Not Applicable" option is listed on several drop-down lists on Ciao but selecting it results in an error message. No major gripe, just trying to explain why I've rated the lyrics when there aren't any.

It’s currently going for new hard copy for £15.68 from Amazon (including MP3 version), and from around £11.50 to £13.00 through their Marketplace (I’ve found Dodax helpful and reliable, but other suppliers are selling it). Even better Musicroom.com are selling it for a near-giveaway £9.95! To my mind it’s a bargain anywhere between (or even a little beyond) these prices! Happy humming and foot-tapping!

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Comments on this review

  • jb0077 published 23/05/2016
    nicely done
  • GeorgieH1994 published 17/01/2016
    Fab review!
  • bexx0907 published 17/12/2015
    Exceptional x
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Product Information : Famous Ragtime Guitar Solos - Ton Van Bergeyk

Manufacturer's product description

1 CD(s) - Jazz Instrument - Label: Acoustic Music - Distributor: Discovery - Released: 04/05/2010 - 4013429114353

Product Details

EAN: 4013429114353


Listed on Ciao since: 02/12/2011