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James P Johnson – Phantom Dancer 7 July 2020

James Price Johnson, American composer and pioneer of stride piano, one of the key figures in the evolution of ragtime into jazz, a major influence on Count BasieDuke EllingtonArt Tatum, and Fats Waller, is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist.

You’ll hear James P Johnson playing solo piano in this week’s Phantom Dancer mix, live over a Blue Network Eddie Condon Jazz Concert in 1944.

The Phantom Dancer is produced and presented by 1920s-30s singer and actor Greg Poppleton. The show has been on-air over 107.3 2SER Sydney since 1985.

You can hear The Phantom Dancer  online from 12:04pm AEST Tuesday 7 July at

The finyl hour is vinyl.

james p johnson


Johnson composed many hit songs, including the unofficial anthem of the Roaring Twenties, “The Charleston,” and he remained the acknowledged king of New York jazz pianists through most of the 1930s.


Johnson composed many hit tunes in his work for the musical theatre, including “Charleston” (which debuted in his Broadway show Runnin’ Wild in 1923, although by some accounts Johnson had written it years earlier, and which became one of the most popular songs of the “Roaring Twenties”), “If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)”, “You’ve Got to Be Modernistic”, “Don’t Cry, Baby”, “Keep off the Grass”, “Old Fashioned Love”, “A Porter’s Love Song to a Chambermaid”, “Carolina Shout”, and “Snowy Morning Blues”. He wrote waltzes, ballet, symphonic pieces and light opera; many of these extended works exist in manuscript form in various stages of completeness in the collection of Johnson’s papers housed at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey. Johnson’s success as a popular composer qualified him as a member of ASCAP in 1926.

1928 saw the premier of Johnson’s rhapsody Yamekraw, named after a black community in Savannah, Georgia. William Grant Still was orchestrator and Fats Waller the pianist as Johnson was contractually obliged to conduct his and Waller’s hit Broadway show Keep Shufflin. Harlem Symphony, composed during the 1930s, was performed at Carnegie Hall in 1945 with Johnson at the piano and Joseph Cherniavsky as conductor. He collaborated with Langston Hughes on the one-act opera, De Organizer. A fuller list of Johnson’s film scores appears below.


Along with Fats Waller and Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith (‘The Big Three’), and Luckey Roberts, Johnson embodies the Harlem Stride piano style, an evolution of East Coast ragtime infused with elements of the blues. His “Carolina Shout” was a standard test piece and rite of passage for every contemporary pianist: Duke Ellington learned it note for note from the 1921 QRS Johnson piano roll. Johnson taught Fats Waller and got him his first piano roll and recording assignments.

Harlem Stride is distinguished from ragtime by several essential characteristics: ragtime introduced sustained syncopation into piano music, but stride pianists built a more freely swinging rhythm into their performances, with a certain degree of anticipation of the left (bass) hand by the right (melody) hand, a form of tension and release in the patterns played by the right hand, interpolated within the beat generated by the left. Stride more frequently incorporates elements of the blues, as well as harmonies more complex than usually found in the works of classic ragtime composers. Lastly, while ragtime was for the most part a composed music, based on European light classics such as marches, pianists such as Waller and Johnson introduced their own rhythmic, harmonic and melodic figures into their performances and, occasionally, spontaneous improvisation. It was in this respect that Johnson distinguished himself from his colleagues, in that (in his own words), he “could think of a trick a minute”. Comparison of many of Johnson’s recordings of a given tune over the years demonstrates variation from one performance to another, characterised by respect for the melody, and reliance upon a worked out set of melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic devices, such as repeated chords, serial thirds (hence his admiration for Bach), and interpolated scales, on which the improvisations were based. This same set of variations might then appear in the performance of another tune.


James P. Johnson may be thought of as both the last major pianist of the classic ragtime era and the first major jazz pianist. As such, he is considered an indispensable bridge between ragtime and jazz. Johnson’s musical legacy is also present in the body of work of his pupil, Thomas “Fats” Waller, as well as scores of other pianists who were influenced by him, including Art Tatum, Donald Lambert, Louis Mazetier, Pat Flowers, Cliff Jackson, Hank Duncan, Claude Hopkins, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Don Ewell, Johnny Guarnieri, Dick Hyman, Dick Wellstood, Ralph Sutton, Joe Turner, Neville Dickie, Mike Lipskin, and Butch Thompson.


In this week’s Phantom Dancer Video of the Week we go with Columbia Pictures to visit a drunk Eddie Condon (from whose 1944 radio series we hear Johnson) at his famous new York City jazz club in 1950…


Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney, Live Stream, Digital Radio
Community Radio Network Show CRN #444

107.3 2SER Tuesday 7 July 2020
After the 2SER 12 noon news, 12:04 – 2:00pm (+10 hours GMT)
and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program:
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Sunday 10 – 11pm
5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am
3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am
4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am
2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4pm
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4pm
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm
2MCE Bathurst / Orange / Central West NSW Wednesday 9 – 10am
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am
6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am

Set 1
Swing Bands on 1936-37 Radio
Open + Swing High Swing Low
Peter van Steeden Orchestra (voc) Quartet
‘Town Hall Tonight’
17 Mar 1937
Goodnight Sweetheart + If You Love Me
Paul Whiteman Orchestra with Ray Noble (voc) The King Singers
‘Paul Whiteman’s Musical Varieties’
2 Feb 1936
King Porter Stomp + Goodbye (close)
Benny Goodman Orchestra
Joseph Urban Room
Congress Hotel
Chicago via WEAF NBC Red NY
3 Feb 1936
Set 2
Eddie Condon celebrates Fats Waller on 1944 Radio
The Joint is Jumpin’ + Squeeze Me
Eddie Condon’s Barefoot Gang (voc) Hot Lips Page
‘Eddie Condon Jazz Concert’
Town Hall
17 Jun 1944
Willow Tree + Candied Sweets + I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby
James P Johnson (piano)
‘Eddie Condon Jazz Concert’
Town Hall
17 Jun 1944
Set 3
Navy Star Time
Open + It’s A Lovely Day Today
Jo Stafford (voc) Buzz Adlam Orchestra
‘Navy Star Time’
Radio Transcription
On The Lone Prairie
Buzz Adlam Orchestra
‘Navy Star Time’
Radio Transcription
On The Sunny Side Of The Street + Anchors Aweigh
Frankie Laine (voc) Buzz Adlam Orchestra
‘Navy Star Time’
Radio Transcription
Set 4
1940s – 50s Swing Bands on One Night Stand
Summertime (theme) + The Whistler
Bob Crosby Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Hollywood Palladium
AFRS Re-broadcast
12 Mar 1946
I Found A New Baby
Lenny Conn Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
AFRS Re-broadcast
Rolling Home + I Get A Kick Out Of You
Ray Anthony Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Cafe Rouge
Hotel Statler NY
AFRS Re-broadcast
Set 5
Spotlight Bands Programmes
Nightmare (theme) + Tabu
Artie Shaw Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’
Mutual Network, San Diego
12 Sep 1945
Even Steven
Charlie Spivak Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’
Jamestown NY
Blue Network
19 Jan 1945
St Louis Blues
Louis Prima Orchestra
‘Spotlight Bands’
Mitchell Field, Long Island NY
Blue Network
15 Jan 1945
The Honeydripper + For Dancers Only
Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra (voc) Quartet
‘Spotlight Bands’
Jefferson Barracks Missouri
23 Nov 1945
Set 6
1930s-1940s Australian Swing
Annie Laurie
Jim Davidson and the ABC Dance Orchestra (voc) Alice Smith
Comm Rec
2 Jun 1938
Blue Velvet
George Trevare Orchestra (voc) Johnny Fitzgerald
Comm Rec
We’re Off To See The Wizard
Jim Davidson and the ABC Dance Orchestra (voc) Band
Comm Rec
21 Nov 1939
Der Fuehrer’s Face
George Trevare Orchestra (voc) Dick Bentley
Comm Rec
Set 7
Benny Goodman Camel Caravan 1939
And The Angels Sing
Benny Goodman (voc) Martha Tilton
‘Camel Caravan’
WBBM CBS Chicago
2 May 1939
Kingdom of Swing
Benny Goodman Orchestra
‘Camel Caravan’
4 Apr 1939
St Louis Blues
Benny Goodman Orchestra (voc) Johnny Mercer
‘Camel Caravan’
Fox Theatre
CBS St Louis
9 May 1939
Sing Sing Sing
Benny Goodman Orchestra featuring Lionel Hampton
‘Camel Caravan’
11 Apr 1939
Set 8
Modern Jazz on 1950s Radio
The Duke (theme) + I’m in a Dancing Mood
Dave Brubeck Quartet
‘All-Star Parade of Bands’
Basin Street
Mar 1957
Ad + Hob Nail Boogie
Count Basie Orchestra
31 Aug 1952
Buddy Rich Quintet
7 Nov 1958

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