The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra

Black Manhattan, Volumes 3, 2, & 1



*   NEW RELEASE !!   *


Black Manhattan, Volume 3

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra

Rick Benjamin, director


Janai Brugger & Andrea Jones, sopranos;

Edward Pleasant, baritone; Chauncey Packer, tenor




With Music by C. Luckeyth Roberts, Eubie Blake, Frederick M. Bryan, Sidney Perrin, Clarence Cameron White, J. Turner Layton, Scott Joplin, James Bland, Gussie L. Davis, Sissle & Blake, J. Leubrie Hill, Clarence Williams & Spencer Williams, Tom Lemonier, Will H. Dixon, Clarence G. Wilson, Q. Roscoe Snowden, Al. Johns, and James Weldon Johnson & J. Rosamond Johnson


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Accompanied by a 48-page booklet and featuring the world-premiere recording of the Johnson brothers’ original 1900 score for their most enduring creation, the “Black American National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice and Sing.

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This is the third volume of Paragon Ragtime Orchestra recordings documenting the music of important African-American composers from late 19th- and early 20th-century New York City. The inspiration for this effort came about twenty-five years ago, when I read James Weldon Johnson’s Black Manhattan (1930), a fascinating chronicle of the city’s black artistic life from the Victorian era to the Harlem Renaissance. I came to Johnson’s volume after finishing Eileen Southern’s The Music of Black Americans (1971), a wider-ranging academic work, but a no less revealing one. After reading these books I was excited to listen to the music they had described. But this was problematic: I discovered remarkably few available recordings of historic African-American music, and even fewer to represent New York’s pioneering black composers. This inability to actually experience a considerable span of our musical heritage was a void that needed to be filled. Clearly it was time for a carefully curated new recording of first-rate performances played from authentic scores.


Fifteen years and three Black Manhattan volumes later [the first was issued in 2003], we have recorded three and a half hours of this previously neglected music: sixty pieces by thirty-two outstanding African-American composers, spanning the seminal years of the 1870s to the early 1920s. It is our hope that these efforts have started to close this gap in America’s cultural memory. Our even greater hope is that these recordings will enable the world to rediscover this is magnificent music and the gifted, spirited, and persevering people who gave it to us.


Rick Benjamin, conductor, Paragon Ragtime Orchestra

Samples (of tracks 1-18 of 22):

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Anthology of Recorded Music, Inc., which records under the label New World Records, was founded in 1975. We are dedicated to the documentation of American music that is largely ignored by the commercial recording companies. Like the university press, New World preserves neglected treasures of the past and nurtures the creative future of American music.


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