From My Archives: “The Easy Winners” – Scott Joplin, Andre Previn, Itzhak Perlman
Talk about a cross-over album. “The Easy Winners” (Angel Records, 1975) was the work of Scott Joplin as interpreted by Andre Previn and Itzhak Perlman. The result was beautiful, a classic that probably should have got more attention than it did.
Joplin’s ragtime is the epitome of home-grown America – a cross between jazz, blues and the kind of plinky-plonk piano that people would gather around at home. Previn and Perlman are music gods in their own field, a German-American and Israeli bringing classical piano and violin, respectively, to the works of a African-American born in late 19th century Texas and required for a time to play in brothels.
The trick to the album is that Joplin’s work had been transcribed for violin. Perlman says of the decision:
Joplin’s lyrical, often sad qualities suggested the idea of arranging his music for violin and piano. The violin, which naturally displays the music’s most soulful qualities, surely would be an apt voice for realizing this composer’s very individual spirit.
It works brilliantly, carrying you away into another time, helped along, of course, by the musicians’ palpable quality. There are 10 tracks, including “The Entertainer”, made famous from the soundtrack of the film “The Sting”.
The album was re-released in the early 1990’s by EMI. There is a relatively rare CD floating around and it can be downloaded on MP3. But if you want you can find a good old vinyl for around $15. Here’s a taste: