Frederick Hodges | Manhattan Serenade: Piano Masterpieces Of The Jazz Age

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Manhattan Serenade: Piano Masterpieces Of The Jazz Age

by Frederick Hodges

A major recital of some of the greatest masterpieces for piano that emerged during the Jazz Age.
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Manhattan Serenade
4:34 $0.99
2. Dolly Dimples
3:37 $0.99
3. Syncopated Love Song
3:53 $0.99
4. Serenade To A Skyscraper
5:14 $0.99
5. Shreveport Stomp
4:00 $0.99
6. Willow Moss No. 1 From "Aquarium Suite"
3:09 $0.99
7. Moorish Idol No. 2 From "Aquarium Suite"
3:10 $0.99
8. Fantail No. 3 From "Aquarium Suite"
2:38 $0.99
9. Whirligig No. 4 From "Aquarium Suite"
2:26 $0.99
10. The Joker (A Further Contribution to "Four Aces")
3:40 $0.99
11. Sweet William (A Syncopated Impression)
2:55 $0.99
12. Estelle
3:24 $0.99
13. Silhouette (A Musical Outline)
2:48 $0.99
14. Sapphire (A Musical Gem)
3:04 $0.99
15. That Futuristic Rag
2:42 $0.99
16. Aunt Jemima'S Birthday
3:10 $0.99
17. Society Blues
3:28 $0.99
18. The Cyclone
2:55 $0.99
19. Chromatic Capers
3:14 $0.99
20. Feeding The Kitty
2:37 $0.99
21. Russianova
3:46 $0.99
22. Variations On Waiting For The Robert E. Lee
7:14 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The first decades of the twentieth century witnessed the flowering of an exciting new style of piano composition that fused European classical music traditions with the popular music styles of the New World. George Gershwin’s music is highly representative of this tradition, but with this CD, Rivermont presents a major recital of some of the lesser known gems of piano writing that emerged during the flood of creativity that distinguishes this era.

1. Manhattan Serenade
Louis Alter
Robbins Music Corporation, 1928
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

Massachusetts native Louis Alter (1902-1980) was a pianist, a Broadway and Hollywood songwriter, and a serious composer. He began accompanying silent films at the age of thirteen and later studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. After playing in vaudeville houses as the accompanist for headliners Irène Bordoni and Nora Bayes, Alter concentrated on writing novelty piano solos and songs for major Broadway productions such as the Earl Carroll Vanities.

Regarding the inception and creation of “Manhattan Serenade,” Alter recalled in 1975: “I was a great fan of Whiteman when I first came down here from Boston. He was the first big name I actually followed around and met. I was having a love affair with New York when Whiteman commissioned me to write a tone poem. I walked around this city for six months absorbing the sights and sounds. And then suddenly it came to me. Once I plunged into it I finished it in two hours.” [Amica Bulletin, April 1975] The result was an instant and enduring success.

The iconic "Manhattan Serenade" was adopted as the theme music for the long-running serial radio comedy Easy Aces (1930-1945) and enjoyed continued popularity in the Big Band Era when it was recorded by Tommy Dorsey and Harry James as a song with lyrics by Harold Adamson. The piece was also featured in such movies as My Man Godfrey (1936) and The Godfather (1972).

2. Dolly Dimples
Louis Alter
Robbins Music Corporation, 1927
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

Commissioned and recorded by Paul Whiteman on 5 January 1928 (Victor 21301B), “Dolly Dimples” was Louis Alter’s first big instrumental success In 1925, Alter's music publisher, Jack Robbins, introduced him to Frank Milne, recording manager for the Duo-Art reproducing piano roll company. Alter then recorded several popular numbers for Duo-Art of which “Dolly Dimples” was the first. Alter’s arrangement on the Duo-Art roll is substantially different from the published sheet music. My arrangement draws inspiration from both sources.

3. Syncopated Love Song
Dana Suesse and Nathaniel Shilkret
Harms Inc, 1930
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

Billed by The New Yorker as “The Girl Gershwin,” Dana Suesse (1909-1987) leapt to national prominence in 1928 with her haunting composition “Syncopated Love Song.” While not published until 1930, “Syncopated Love Song” was copyrighted on 2 July 1928 and first performed in 1928 on radio station KWK by Merle Johnston’s Saxophone Quartet.

The Victor Salon Orchestra, under the direction of Nathaniel Shilkret recorded the piece on 13 December 1929 (Victor 22410A), which probably explains why Shilkret’s name appears as co-composer in the published sheet music. Sharing the credit and the royalties with recording or publishing industry magnates was frequently the price paid by young artists for entrée into the music business.

In 1931, Suesse gave the principle theme of “Syncopated Love Song” new life by transforming it into a popular song with the title “Have You Forgotten,” with lyrics by Leo Robin.

4. Serenade to a Skyscraper
Dana Suesse
Mercury Music Corporation, 1941

Evocative of the haunting and introspective masterpieces of French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel, the advanced harmonies of Suesse’s “Serenade to a Skyscraper” paint a misty sound portrait of distant church bells echoing through the lonely skyscraper canyons of New York City. Composed in 1938 while Suesse was a staff writer for Robbins Music Corporation, “Serenade to a Skyscraper” was perhaps too modern even for Robbins and was only published in 1941 by Leonard S. Feist’s music publishing company, Mercury Music Corporation. Leonard (1911-1996) was the son of Leo Feist (1869-1930), one of the country’s most important publishers of popular music.

5. Shreveport Stomp
Jelly Roll Morton
Melrose Brothers Music Corporation, 1925
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

New Orleans native “Jelly Roll” Morton (1885-1941) was a pivotal figure in the history of ragtime and early jazz. He published “Shreveport Stomp” while living in Chicago, and recorded it in 1924 as a Vocalstyle piano roll (50481), as an acoustic piano solo for Gennett (Gen 5590), and also as an orchestral instrumental with his Trio for Victor (VI 21658) in 1928. The composition is noted for its blend of vigorous excitement and sensitive delicacy.

6. Aquarium Suite
Billy Mayerl
Keith Prowse, Ltd, 1937
Willow Moss
Moorish Idol

Billy Mayerl (1902-1959) was one of the finest English pianists and composers of the early twentieth century. His atmospheric “Aquarium Suite” is a testament to his genius for harmonic invention and lyric beauty. Mayerl was a member of the Zoological Society of London from 1936 to 1947 and took especial delight in the aquarium at the London Zoo. This inspired him to install a fish pond in his own garden. The various watery flora and fauna both at home and at the zoo inspired the individual movements of this suite. “Willow moss” is an aquatic plant commonly used in freshwater aquariums. “Moorish Idol” (Zanclus cornutus) is a small marine fish species that got its name from the Moors of Africa, who purportedly believed the fish to be a bringer of happiness. Mayerl cast this piece in a lovely minor Arabic mode as a musical pun. “Fantail” is none other than the popular goldfish, whereas “Whirligig” is a water beetle that normally lives on the surface of the water. It gets its common name from its habit of swimming rapidly in circles when alarmed. Mayerl masterfully suggests this behavior in the quickly ascending and descending arabesques of the first strain.

7. The Joker — A Further Contribution to "Four Aces"
Billy Mayerl
Keith Prowse, Ltd, 1934

Following the success of Mayerl’s “Four Aces Suite” (1933), Mayerl composed “The Joker” as an ingenious composition that stands on its own but also includes clever musical quotations from each of the four movement of the earlier suite. The striking parallel chord progressions of the jazzy middle strain provide amble evidence that Mayerl could “out-Gershwin” Gershwin anytime he wanted.

8. Sweet William — A Syncopated Impression
Billy Mayerl
Keith Prowse, Ltd, 1938

After “Marigold” (1927), Mayerl’s most popular piece was “Sweet William.” Here, we find a modernistic departure from Mayerl’s early style of novelty piano writing with the injection of a bouncy swing beat. The descending arpeggios in the first section recall the graceful piano pyrotechnics of Art Tatum.

9. Estelle
Frankie Carle
Mills Music Inc, 1930

The handsome entertainer Frankie Carle (1903-2001), born Francis Nunzio Carlone, was an enormously popular pianist and bandleader. Carle’s music was especially loved by dancers because of his buoyant touch, which resulted in romantic and danceable melodies. He also composed a number of hits, the biggest being “Sunrise Serenade," which rose to number one song in the nation in 1938 and sold more than a million copies. “Estelle,” however, is one of Carle’s earliest compositions. Named for Estelle Mills, the wife of music publisher Jack Mills, “Estelle” is a toe-tapping, danceable composition that is fully in the tradition of the novelty piano style of the late 1920s. Characteristic of this genre, the melody is voiced in intervals of fourths. Carle recorded it with rhythm accompaniment in 1940 for Columbia (CO 35571).

10. Silhouette — A Musical Outline
Rube Bloom
Triangle Music Publishing Company, 1927

Jazz pianist Rube Bloom (1902-1976) was one of most highly regarded pianists of the 1920s, accompanying singers such as Ruth Etting and Ethel Waters, as well as performing in jazz and dance bands such as The Original Memphis Five, Red Nichols and His Five Pennies, Don Voorhees and His Orchestra, and of course, his own orchestra. Bloom was also a noted composer of popular songs and shows, writing the entire score for several editions of the revue shows Cotton Club Parade and Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds.

“Silhouette” begins as a brisk, joyous, virtuoso novelty, but soon develops into an introspective mood piece in a minor mode. This sort of contrast was one of the hallmarks of Bloom’s compositional style. Bloom recorded “Silhouette” for Columbia on 1 July 1927 (CO 1195-D) and also for the subsidiary Okeh label on 9 September 1927 (OK 40901).

11. Sapphire — A Musical Gem
Rube Bloom
Triangle Music Publishing Company, 1927

Bloom’s adventurous miniature tone poem “Sapphire” is classical in nature rather than a piece suitable for ballroom dancing. It is an example of jazz-inspired and jazz-infused “program music” in the manner of Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” Again, as the premiere exponent of his own music, Bloom recorded “Sapphire” for Columbia on 31 August 1927 (CO 1195-D) and again for Okeh on 2 November 1927 (OK 40931).

12. That Futuristic Rag
Rube Bloom
Jack Mills, Inc, 1923

Bloom presaged Gershwin by mixing popular novelty ragtime with the new whole-tone harmonies emanating from advanced classical composers such as Ravel, Debussy, and Stravinsky. Pianist Phil Ohman may actually have been the first to employ passages employing alternating whole tone scales in his 1922 novelty “Try and Play It,” but this merely illustrates that musical adventure was in the air for anyone to grab in the early 1920s. Bloom’s 1923 offering, “That Futuristic Rag,” includes nearly identical passages. Bloom recorded this piece for Okeh (OK 41073) on 21 February 1928.

13. Aunt Jemima’s Birthday
Rube Bloom
Robbins Music Corporation, 1931

Among his many musical pursuits, Bloom was an active pianist and personality on radio.
I like to imagine that this composition was inspired by Bloom’s fellow popular radio star Therese “Tess” Gardella (1894-1950), better known under the guise of her stage name “Aunt Jemima.” A powerful singer, the impressively hefty Gardella played Queenie in the original stage version of Show Boat and was a favorite on stage, screen, and radio for her larger than life, jovial Aunt Jemima character. Bloom recorded this stride-inspired piece for Victor (Vi 25227) on 18 December 1934.

14. Society Blues
James Blythe
Unpublished and uncopyrighted
Transcribed from Capital A Nickelodeon roll (2150), 1927

Jimmy Blythe (1901-1931) made hundreds of piano rolls in the early 1920s for the Columbia (later renamed Capitol) Music Roll Company in Chicago. He also worked as an accompanist for a variety of blues singers on Paramount Records and as a pianist for dance bands such as the Midnight Rounders and the State Street Ramblers, Blythe's Sinful Five. Blythe died of meningitis in Chicago at the age of thirty. Never published, “Society Blues” exists only as a 1927 Nickelodeon Roll (Capital A roll 2150) for use in coin-operated orchestrion pianos found in bars, restaurants, speakeasies, pool halls, and other public establishments. Based on the figuration, Blythe must have played the piece in the key of F on the recording piano, but the editors at Capital transposed his piece down to the key of E to accommodate the limited 58-note range of nickelodeon A rolls. My transcription, however, remains in the unusual key of E to take advantage of its vivid tonal color.

15. The Cyclone
Ferdie Grofé
Jack Mills, Inc, 1923
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

Ferde (Ferdie) Grofé (1892-1972) was a prominent American composer, arranger, and pianist, known chiefly today as the composer of the “Grand Canyon Suite” (1932). He served as principle arranger for Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra from 1920-1932 and distinguished himself for his imaginative, clever, and atmospheric arrangements of popular tunes, light classical works, and, of course most famously, for his original orchestration of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” In “The Cyclone” displays his fascination with and genius for creating polyphonic harmonic sequences constructed of alternating parallel and contrary motion chromatic lines.

16. Chromatic Capers
George L. Cobb
Walter Jacobs 1925
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

George L. Cobb (1886-1942), staff composer for the Walter Jacobs Music publishing empire in Boston made imaginative and elaborate use of the chromatic scale in “Chromatic Capers.” Not only does the melody move along the chromatic scale, but counter melodies, inner moving voices, and bass lines move up and down the chromatic scale, usually in contrary motions and contrasting rhythms.

“Chromatic Capers,” like the majority of Cobb’s compositions for Walter Jacobs was never issued as sheet music. Instead, it was published in Jacobs’ month music magazine Melody, and in Jacobs’ Piano Folio of Characteristic and Descriptive Pieces No. 7 one of the many silent film music folios that Walter Jacobs published in large quantities. This folio was also published in Great Britain under the title Syncopets.

4. Feeding the Kitty
George L. Cobb
Walter Jacobs 1919
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

Just like “Chromatic Capers,” George L. Cobb’s lively rag “Feeding the Kitty” was never issued as sheet music, appearing only in the pages of the November 1919 issue of Melody and in Jacobs’ Piano Folio of Rags No. 2. The joyous and spirited “Feeding the Kitty” reveals George L. Cobb at his raggy best.

18. Russianova
Bert Grant and Cecil Arnold
Mills Music 1923
Arranged by Frederick Hodges

Vaudeville pianists and popular song composers Bert Grant and Cecil Arnold teamed up to write “Russianova,” one of the most daring and original popular parodies of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp minor. An art form championed by George L. Cobb in 1918 with his famous “Russian Rag,” which I recorded on my CD Kitten On The Keys, “Russianova” retains a distinctive classical grace with a thick layering of characteristically Slavic harmonies and voicings.

19. Variations on “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee”
Frederick Hodges

Original song: Lyrics by L. Wolfe Gilbert. Music by Lewis F. Muir.
F.A. Mills, 1912

1. The original song in Stride piano style
2. Variation 1. In the Style of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
3. Variation 2. In the Style of Ludwig van Beethoven
4. Variation 3. In the Style of Johann Strauss, Jr.
5. Variation 4. In the Style of John Philip Sousa
6. Variation 5. In the Style of George Gershwin

My “Variations on ‘Waiting for the Robert E. Lee’” was inspired by the brilliant example set in the 1930s by the piano duet team of Jacques Fray and Mario Braggiotti, who delighted audiences with their compositions “Variations On ‘Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?’” (recorded for Victor (24563B) on 7 February 1934) and “Variations on ‘Yankee Doodle’” (recorded for Decca (15006) on 12 September 1934).

The genesis for this particular set of variations, however, was a duet set I shared with pianist Jeff Barnhart at the 2009 West Coast Ragtime Festival. Jeff had the clever idea of taking a well-known tune and trading choruses in which each of us in turn would parody the song by presenting it in the style of various famous composers. The result found such an enthusiastic reception from the audience, that I decided to take Jeff’s idea and turn it into a solo piano feature. While most of the ideas for the variations are my own, I am proud to acknowledge that Jeff was the first to fit the tune into the model of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (Op. 27, No. 2). As we say in the music business, “imitation is the highest form of flattery.”

Frederick Hodges
Hailed by the press as one of the best ragtime pianists in the world, Frederick Hodges is sought after by today’s foremost orchestras, festivals, conductors, and collaborative musicians. His absolute artistry, virtuosity and charisma have brought him to the world’s most renowned stages numerous times, leaving audiences around the globe repeatedly captivated. Mr. Hodges has made regular appearances at major ragtime and jazz festivals throughout the US as well as world tours with the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra under the baton of conductor Don Neely.

Renowned as a pianist and singer, Frederick Hodges is recognized by audiences around the world for his mastery of diverse repertoire from Liszt to Gershwin. He has established a reputation as a truly versatile artist equally sought after as soloist, singer, guest soloist with the California Pops Orchestra, and dance band pianist. He has appeared on national television, radio, and in several Hollywood films. He is also a sought-after silent film accompanist for both live performances and on DVD. He performs regularly at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, The Redding Silent Film Festival, and the Cinecon Film Festival in Hollywood

His extensive repertoire includes the great European classical masters as well as all the best ragtime, stride, and novelty piano solo pieces, including the complete solo piano works of Roy Bargy, George Gershwin, Phil Ohman, Zez Confrey, and Adam Carroll, as well as less-known works by Scott Joplin, James Scott, George L. Cobb and Charley Straight. His distinguished discography, mainly on Rivermont, Stomp Off, and Aristophone Records, includes piano works by Lucky Roberts, George Gershwin, Dana Suesse, Cole Porter, Phil Ohman, Arthur Schutt, and Scott Joplin.

Frederick Hodges is a native of California, where he began his piano studies at age eight. At thirteen, he began intense classical piano study with two famed San Francisco Bay Area piano teachers who were both graduates of the Juilliard School of Music: Virginia Moore and Trula Whelan. At age seventeen, he won the prestigious Music Teachers of California Young Artist Award. At twenty, while still an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, he joined Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra as pianist. Since then, he has toured extensively. Frederick has enjoyed a career playing solo piano for society parties and holding down steady engagements at legendary San Francisco establishments such as L'Etoile in the Huntington Hotel, Masons in the Fairmont Hotel, and the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

In 2001, Frederick earned a doctorate in history from Oxford University in England, where he lived for five years. Frederick has participated in many prestigious festivals including in Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the West Coast Ragtime Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Blind Boone Ragtime and Jazz Festival in Columbia Missouri, the Templeton Ragtime Festival at Mississippi State University, the El Segundo Ragtime Festival, the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival, and the Sedalia Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival, and the Central Pennsylvania Ragtime Festival. His website is:

Production Credits

Recording Engineer: Dix Bruce
Mastering: Jim Nunally, Music Hill Recording, Albany, CA
Recording Location: Piedmont Piano Company, Oakland, California
Recording dates: 27 January 2010, tracks 2, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.
August 4, 2011, all other tracks


Fazioli model F278 (9 foot 2 inches), serial number 2781695

Photographer: Mark A. Vieria

Production, graphic design, and layout: Bryan Wright
Rivermont Records
P. O. Box 3081
Lynchburg, VA 24503

Producers: Frederick Hodges and Bryan Wright
Copyright 2011 by Frederick Hodges
All arrangements copyright Frederick Hodges

Rivermont Records Catalogue Number

I would like to thank Jim Callahan, proprietor of the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, California, for making his store and instruments available to me. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to have performed on a beautiful piano manufactured by Fazioli Pianoforti in Sacile, Italy. Fazioli pianos are among the very best pianos made in the world today.

Other CDs by Frederick Hodges
Racing Down The Black And Whites. Aristophone Records CDFH103
Up And Down The Keys. Aristophone Records CDFH102
Kitten On The Keys. Aristophone Records CDFH101
Turn on the Heat: Stomp Off Records CD1333
Double Trouble: Hot Piano Duets. Frederick Hodges and Adam Swanson. Rivermont Records BSW-2211
Ragtime Dance Party: The Crown Syncopators. Ragophile 1005
Hello, Frisco! Ragtime Songs Performed by Miss Ann Gibson with Frederick Hodges, piano. Lovers Point Jazz Productions Inc.
Picnics: Classic Ragtime Music. Frederick Hodges with the Pickles and Peaches Ragtime Orchestra Menus and Music Productions 07DMS

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