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Practice Tracks: Carolina Shout

Barron Ryan

Drag me around…  by Daniel Staemmler

Drag me around… by Daniel Staemmler

It's the second edition of Practice Tracks, and this time you get to hear me play an entire tune! This week's post features 'Carolina Shout' by James P. Johnson and as played by Fats Waller on a 1941 recording. It's from my project, The Masters' Apprentice, in which I write down every note a jazz pianist plays so I can learn the tune myself. Let's take a look.

First of all, this tune is hard. I don't just mean that the notes are hard to play (although that's true too). It's especially difficult because there's no place to rest. It's almost three minutes of non-stop motion, and that's a significant mental challenge. I started practicing this piece a little over a year ago, and only now am I getting comfortable playing it.

All that jumping around in the left hand is a hallmark of the stride piano style, and this was the standard tune pianists in Harlem would battle on. It's also the first fast stride tune I've ever learned. That might not have been the best idea, but it's too late to turn back now.

Not only do you get to hear me play 'Carolina Shout' above, but you also get to hear the original! It's fascinating to hear a comparison between the two, because they're definitely different. The biggest contrast I hear is that Fats' version sounds more energetic (maybe a little hurried?), while mine is more composed (maybe a little staid?). What do you hear?

You can view additional comments on the recording's SoundCloud page.