Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Three house pianists, and how to tell them apart!

Christopher Henry Hudson Booth(C. H. H. Booth)
(was Berliner's late pianist and Victor's first pianist until 1904 or so)

Frank P. Banta
(recorded primarily for Edison in the late 1890's to 1903, but also for Victor occasionally)

Frederic E. Hylands,
(recorded mainly for Columbia from 1897 to 1904 but also branched out into Zon-O-Phone and a few Victors)

All three of these patrons of Rag-Time had very unique piano styles, but they were also all very similar in many ways. Banta's was a mix of rough piano tuner and classical, Hylands' was a mix of L.M. Gottschalk and itinerant Saloon piano, and Booth's was a mix of who knows what! 
There are ways to distinguish their piano playing, but most of them are very slight. 

Banta played syncopated melodies with a straight left hand, and the melodies he often played were quick and beautifully executed, with no flaws in his improvisations. Banta clearly had some musical training, and whatever he had must have been very upscale and refined. He had a very light and graceful touch on the piano keys
Hylands is a little easier to hear compared to Banta, and in my opinion, he's more interesting to listen to. And my proof for this is because-- he was unexpected! Hylands' piano style consisted of complicated quick walking basslines with broken and heavily syncopated right hand melodies, most of which were completely improvised and different on each take of a song. One thing that Hylands did which had disappeared from Ragtime when he died was syncopating the left hand octaves WITH the right hand melodies, how 'bout that for strange. He had a very heavy and burly touch on the piano keys. 

Booth on the other hand had a very similar piano style to Hylands. As he did the quick right hand patterns and syncopated melodies as well, but he DID NOT do the walking bassline spiel. But everything else otherwise is pretty much the same with Booth and Hylands. Booth also had a very heavy and burly touch on the piano keys, further complicating identification. So in this, it makes it EXTREMELY difficult to try to pick out which one of the two it is on Victors and Zon-O-Phones. 

here's some examples of each of them:

Hylands in about April, 1902 with Arthur Collins(beautiful record, perfect example of early recorded Ragtime!):

Hylands in 1904 with Bob Roberts(wonderful obscure Ragtime!):

this one is up for grabs on whoever can figure out if this one is Banta or Hylands, with Arthur Collins once more. the solo at the end makes identifying who's playing VERY difficult(beware! this is a pretty messy cylinder):
(killer solo at the end!!!)

Now, this one is Banta, on this one with S. H. Dudley in early 1903: 
(Hmm, now that I just listened to it, I now notice that Banta took quite some licks that he  did four years before this was recorded, i.e. that solo at the END!)

Just for "shits and Giggles" here's the AWFUL take of Hylands playing the same song on Columbia in 1898 with George W. Johnson:
(this record is the definition of a "bad take" ha ha! He's pretty loaded ain't he.You can just hear it!)

This is a very good example of C. H. H. Booth's piano style in 1901 with the great Dan W. Quinn on a Victor Monarch:

Sorry I didn't showcase very many examples of C. H. H. Booth, the only reason for that is because he is the hardest to distinguish of the three of them, and he was a mix of everything that Banta and Hylands were known for. I have many more great examples of these three's mastery, but this is only a sample of what I have found. 

I hope you enjoyed this! :-)

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