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Hal Leonard


Wrote "The Charleston"


In the mid 1920s, dances such as the Fox Trot, The Shimmy, The Black Bottom and The Varsity were sweeping America. One dance in particular epitomized America during this decade: “The Charleston”, written by James P. Johnson, the father of stride piano.

Composer and pianist James Price Johnson, the father of stride piano, was born on February 1, 1891 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He attended New York public schools and received private piano study. His professional debut as a pianist came in 1904. In the early 1910’s, Johnson worked as a pianist in summer resorts, theatres, films and nightclubs before forming his own band in 1920, called the Clef Club. The Clef Club toured throughout Europe with the vaudeville show Plantation Days.

Returning to the States, Johnson was the accompanist for such renowned singers as Bessie Smith, Trixie Smith, Mamie Smith, Laura Smith andn Ethel Waters. In the 1930’s, he took his stride style to the movie screen and composed scores for films including Yamacraw.

The stride style that influenced such legends as Duke Ellingon and Fats Domino, stresses a strong "swinging" bass while moving in a "stride fashion" with a single treble melody. Introduced in 1924 with "The Charleston", combined Ragtime syncopation and the smooth progression of jazz with livelier upbeat rhythms and a swinging bass that helped usher in the next decade's genre.

Johnson’s discography is equally distributed with serious works as well as hit jazz standards. His works include “Symphonic Harlem”, “Symphony in Brown”, “African Drums”, “Piano Concerto in A-flat”, “Mississippi Symphonic Suite on St. Louis Blues”,…

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Discography Highlights

CHARLESTON* R.C. McPherson, James P. Johnson
Harms, Inc.

ALABAMA STOMP Henry Creamer, James P. Johnson
EMI Robbins Catalog, Inc.

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