Nathaniel Dett: Piano Works
New World Records continue their survey of the by-ways of American music with a collection of piano pieces by the black composer-pianist Nathaniel Dctt (also known as R. Nathaniel). Dett appears to have enjoyed a modestly successful career in Rochester based on teaching and choral conducting, his name being perhaps best known as the composer of ''Juba'' from In the bottoms which Percy Grainger recorded in 1920 and again in 1946.
A recurring thread in Dett's output was the desire to preserve and elevate the spiritual inspired by hearing Dvorak and Coleridge-Taylor as a student. There are indeed strong echoes of both these composers in the Magnolia Suite of around 1900, alongside MacDowell (not surprising with titles like ''Deserted Cabin'' and ''The place where the rainbow ends''). They resurface some 30 years later in the Eight Bible Vignettes where the style has generally moved on a little to encompass more advanced harmony of a somewhat Fallaesque hue. On the whole the music is rather predictable, and whenever Dett diverts from the straight and narrow he takes the path of least resistance back again. Still, there are some attractive moments in In the bottoms (don't ask me to explain the title the CD booklet doesn't) notably a Gottschalkian ''Barcarolle'' and the genuinely catchy ''Juba'' with its Winifred Atwell doublings in fourths.
Very much a specialist's issue, then. But for those interested Denver Oldham is a reliable guide and the recording quality is up to the mark.'