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Mordecai Shehori Plays Zez Confrey

Confrey / Shehori
Release Date: 02/23/2010 
Label:  Cembal D'amour   Catalog #: 147   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Sensitive and authoritative. Brio and charm predominate but deeper feelings are also on show.

Peru, Illinois, isn’t an especially big place – population under 10,000 at the 2000 census - but it has given birth to at least two very different, but highly influential musicians. One was the pioneering violinist Maud Powell, who was a Victor recording stalwart and a proselytiser of unflinching passion. The other was Edward Elzear ‘Zez’ Confrey, born around thirty years after Powell, and whom, for the rest of this review, we shall refer to as Zez Confrey.
 
Confrey was prolific, and known best as a ‘novelty’ composer and performer (he left behind piano roll recordings and lateral discs) who utilised the
Read more Ragtime craze to his considerable advantage. If he’s known for anything in particular it’s Kitten on the Keys but he did perform at the premiere of Rhapsody in Blue in February 1924, where he shared the billing with Paul Whiteman and Gershwin – the actual notice was ‘assisted by Zez Confrey and George Gershwin’.
 
Yet as this selection demonstrates - and at least ten are apparently first ever recordings - Confrey’s range of influences ranged wider than his reputation might suggest. One of the great virtues of Mordecai Shehori’s disc is to expand our appreciation of these particular lineages, and to allow us to explore more fully the range of Confrey’s own stylistic ambitions.
 
Kitten on the Keys was part of a sweeping genre that stirred composers as widely divergent as Jaroslav Ježek in Czechoslovakia and Billy Mayerl in Britain, two prominent exponents of the Confrey-influenced muse. But we can also listen to the wistful Meandering, and the ‘Mendelssohn Ragtimed’ Spring Song. Mouse’s Hooves  packs quite a punch in terms of narrative goings-on – from light-hearted to portentous, whereas Anticipation embodies a statelier salon ethos. There is also the rather charming Tune for Mademoiselle, which goes to show that Confrey could write romantically and add some coquettish little flourishes into the bargain. Impressionist hues haunt Tap Dance of the Chimes.
 
Dizzy Fingers sounds rather like a Tiger Rag paraphrase to me, which wouldn’t be altogether surprising since Confrey inhabited a milieu that would have known the song at first hand. Mighty Lackawanna is dreamy and reflective, to offset the more rumbustious vitality of his writing elsewhere, and Sparkling Water (Valse Brillante) is Chopinesque. Grandfather’s Clock is not the expected song of the same name – but Confrey’s certainly does chime. The to-ing and fro-ing of Coaxing the Piano must have made an impression on Mayerl and many a Rhythm Master, whilst Fauré and Ragtime stalk Wistfulness, though not quite as incongruously as that may sound. The mechanical winding down of Nickel in the Slot was part of a sub-genre that hasn’t lost its appeal, nor too the part-salonised Joplin of You Tell ‘Em, Ivories. The naughty segueing into Swannee River lifts the classical skit of Humorestless (After Dvorák) whilst Valse Mirage opens in grandiloquent quasi-organ fashion. Rhythm Venture reminds one of Gershwin – or maybe Gershwin in this mood reminds one of Confrey? – but surely Ježek must have known Parade of the Jumping Beans, which reminds one of the Czech wit’s drunkenly lurching Three Policeman Step.
 
With sensitive and authoritative performances Shehori steers us between the eddies of Confrey’s compositions. Brio and charm predominate, and rightly so, but deeper feelings are also on show.
 
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Kitten on the Keys, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1921; United States of Ame 
Length: 3 Minutes 20 Secs. 
2.
Meandering, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1936 
Length: 3 Minutes 14 Secs. 
3.
Dizzy Fingers for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1923; United States of Ame 
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 
4.
Spring Song by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
5.
Mouse's Hooves by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
6.
Lullaby from Mars, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 3 Minutes 6 Secs. 
7.
Anticipation, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 3 Minutes 36 Secs. 
8.
Tune for Mademoiselle, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 3 Minutes 39 Secs. 
9.
Tap Dance of the Chimes, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1936 
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs. 
10.
My Pet, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Length: 3 Minutes 24 Secs. 
11.
Mighty Lackawanna, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 2 Minutes 32 Secs. 
12.
Sparkling Waters, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1928 
Length: 1 Minutes 28 Secs. 
13.
Greenwich Witch, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Length: 2 Minutes 47 Secs. 
14.
Grandfather's Clock, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 
15.
Coaxing the piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
16.
Movie Ballet, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 
17.
Charleston Chuckles by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Length: 2 Minutes 2 Secs. 
18.
Wistfulness, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 3 Minutes 6 Secs. 
19.
Nickel in the Slot by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Length: 3 Minutes 0 Secs. 
20.
You Tell 'Em Ivories by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: United States of Ame 
Length: 2 Minutes 56 Secs. 
21.
Humorestless, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1925; United States of Ame 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
22.
Rag Doll Dimples, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
23.
Waltz Mirage, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Length: 2 Minutes 38 Secs. 
24.
Blumenlied (Flower Song), for piano (after Gustav Lange) by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 1 Minutes 41 Secs. 
25.
Rhythm Venture, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1935 
Length: 2 Minutes 13 Secs. 
26.
Champagne, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 2 Minutes 18 Secs. 
27.
Stumbling (Paraphrase), for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1922 
Length: 2 Minutes 24 Secs. 
28.
Parade of the Jumping Beans, for piano by Zez Confrey
Performer:  Mordecai Shehori (Piano)
Length: 2 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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