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Frank Banta

Upright and Grand: Novelty Piano Solos (1923-1930)

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Among those familiar with post-ragtime/pre-swing "novelty" piano playing, that somewhat nebulous hybrid of classical and jazz styles, certain names invariably stand out from the rest. Whether on record, in concert, or in sheet music form, there are some pianists whose virtuosity and imagination thoroughly define the idiom. Frank Edgar Banta (1897-1968) has long been recognized as one of the master novelty pianists of the 1920s.

Banta was born into a musical family (his father, Frank P. Banta, was a busy studio pianist in the early years of the phonograph industry until his untimely death in 1903), and even at an early age, his talent at the piano was apparent. While still a teenager, he replaced Felix Arndt in Fred Van Eps's trio and began a busy recording career of his own. From the mid-1910s through the early 1930s, Banta made dozens of piano rolls and hundreds of recordings for virtually every record label.

Most of the recordings feature Banta as sideman in a band or as accompanist to vocalists or instrumentalists, but he made occasional solo recordings that demonstrate his remarkable dexterity and brilliant arranging skills. Rivermont's Frank Banta CD contains all of Banta's solo 78s (with the exception of two sides recorded for Gennett that have been reissued elsewhere), including the very rare 1930 Victor session and the scarce Plaza sessions issued under the pseudonym "Jimmy Andrews."

Rivermont catalogue number: BSW-1142

The accompanying 12-page full-color booklet features rare photographs, complete discographical information for each recording, and notes by novelty piano expert Alex Hassan. 78 minutes.

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