Jack Rummel

Jack Rummel

January 2010

 Hello Frisco


Hello, Frisco!

Ann Gibson, vocals; Frederick Hodges, piano


I Wants a Ping Pong Man / The Dance of the Grizzly Bear / Alexander’s Ragtime Band / Everybody’s Doing It Now / The Oceana Roll / Ragtime Cowboy Joe / Row, Row, Row / Snookey Ookums / That International Rag / Aba Daba Honeymoon / I Want To Go Back To Michigan / Hello, Frisco! / If You Only Had My Disposition / I Love A Piano / The Dixie Volunteers / When Alexander Takes His Ragtime Band to France / Sahara (We’ll Soon Be Dry Like You).


            It is not possible to appreciate the effect of The Ragtime Years (1897-1917) on America without including The Ragtime Song, for a lot of these clever compositions enjoyed even greater popularity in their day than did the instrumental piano rags of the era.  Many early songs contained lyrics that are now considered racist, but as Frederick Hodges reminds us in his encyclopedic liner notes, some of the best of these so-called “coon songs” were “…written by Blacks for Black performers to sing in Black Vaudeville houses.”

            That noted, this collection by Ann Gibson, spanning the years 1903-1919, contains not only the biggest hits of the period but also a scattering of lesser-known gems, and their clever lyrics touch on a variety of subjects, including love and courtship, World War I, impending Prohibition and, in some cases, ragtime music itself.  Gibson has the perfect voice for these songs, whether she is playing the cuddly sweetheart or the fervent nationalist, and she has wisely chosen to eschew any demeaning dialects or racial drawls.

            Hodges’ piano stylings add immensely to these selections.  When accompanying Gibson, he remains discreetly in the background with only occasional filigrees to fill between her lines, but he leaps to the forefront when called upon to take a piano solo, embellishing the melody but never abandoning it.  (As listeners, we often concentrate so much on the lyrics that we need to be reminded what lovely melodies these songs have!)  Together, as interpreters of The Ragtime Song, they have become the act to beat.

            The sound is pristine and the voice is always front-and-center, never overpowered by the piano accompaniment.  The graphics are elegant and the liner notes, which include some thumbnail-sized sheet music covers, give the complete history of every song as well as brief bios of the duo.  Ann Gibson and Frederick Hodges clearly love this music, which has resulted in a first-rate production.

            Available for $17.00 postpaid from <>.