[Dixielandjazz] Trio in ragtime

Tamas Ittzes bohem at fibermail.hu
Wed Jul 9 14:51:00 PDT 2008

Dear listmates,

IMHo Jim O'Briant got the point for describing what the trio section
means in ragtime. Classic ragtime pieces most common form is
A-A-B-B-A-C-C-D-D (Maple Leaf Rag, Pine Apple Rag, The Enterntainer
etc.). When there is a trio it is generally the C section in those
pieces when the D section is replaced by the returning B, in most cases
in the subdominant key compared to the first B sections, like
A-A-B1-B1-A-C-C-B2-B2. This is the form of most cake walks, for instance
At A Georgia Camp Meeting and Whistling Rufus. D section could be a trio
only if the form is A-A-B-B-A-A-C-C-D(-D)-C-C. Here the last two
(sometimes unrepeated, so only one) C section is also in the subdominant
key or might be in the dominant, too. And these D sections (sometimes
just 16, maybe 8 bar Interludes) have the same "softer chamber music"
feel as in classical music. (Like in Joplins The Chrysanthemum where the
C section comes back in the same key and the D is in minor thus have
that Trio feel.) So trio does NOT refer to the number of strains, nor to
the number of instruments in jazz. As Jim pointed it out, it refers to
the number of instruments in classical music - although later on
(especially in symphonies of Mozart and Haydn where Trios were kind of
obligatory in the middle of the Menuet movement) it only meant a lighter
instrumentation (for example only strings or only horns/winds played
that section). If you listen to some of those classical symphonies (or
string quartets) where there is a Menuet, you'll hear right away what
trio is. In most ragtime tunes, however, there is NO trio at all. IMHO.


PS.: I am just thinking loudly: I believe that a Trio in ragtime must be
a section that is followed by a returning AND closing strain afterwards.
I.e. a section that has already been played will come back after the
Trio and that finishes the tune. This could be the same strain as just
before the Trio (A-A-B-B-A-C-C-D-D-C when the D is the Trio) or one
section from an earlier part (A-A-B-B-A-C-C-B-B when C is the Trio). I'm
pretty sure that these are the two most common basic Trio forms in
Ragtime and the Trio is always the section before the last (maybe
repeated) strain. But I'm also sure that there must be exceptions, too,
so my description wouldn't fit everywhere.


violin teacher, ragtime pianist, festival organizer
Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band
Kecskemet Jazz Foundation
Mailing address: H-6001 KECSKEMET, Pf. 652., Hungary
Phone: +36(20)82-447-82
E-mails: tamas at bohemragtime.com, bohem at fibermail.hu
Web site: http://www.bohemragtime.com

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