Exhibition of Early Printed Musical African Americana, Conceived and Curated by John Davis at the John Hay Library, Brown University
[John Davis] resurrected music that would otherwise be lost forever
Mr. Davis played these pieces powerfully and with a rich palette.
“This creative disc gives us piano pieces with ties to Twain. There is the Mark Twain Mazurka, and a fascinating Nearer My God to Thee, transcribed from a QRS piano roll by Blind Boone, the first African American to make a piano roll. There are three impressive pieces by another African American great, Blind Tom, whose music Davis has recorded for blues audiences. Twain was fascinated by Blind Tom, with what appears to be very good reason. Davis, an authority in roots music, plays with engaging simplicity and, in between, pieces, reads relevant passages from Twain and his circle. His take on Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique’ Sonata is forthright and lovely. The sonata was a mainstay of the repertoire of both Blind Boone and Blind Tom—and Davis writes that Twain, too, probably played it at home…[Davis’] homespun playing makes you think of Twain and his friends, gathered around a piano in a parlor.”
Mary Kunz Goldman, The Buffalo News