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Piano Music

The Knotts had a nice collection of radios and record players, but they didn’t have a player piano. Sheet music in the popular marketplace was simplified for home performance but with a piano roll you could hear sophisticated pianists performing complex pieces in your own parlor on your own piano.

Zez Confrey was a classically trained pianist who worked in Tin Pan Alley. His compositions were more complex than ragtime but not quite jazz. They were known as ‘novelty piano’ and sold well on piano rolls. Confrey is forgotten today but at the concert where Rhapsody in Blue debuted in 1924, he had five pieces on the program. Two were performed by Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, two by Confrey’s own band and one as a piano solo.

A little of his recorded music found its way into the Knott’s record collection. Kitten on the Keys was performed as a solo in the 1924 concert. Here it is by his orchestra as a dance number:


On the flip side of that record it’s easy to hear how Dizzy Fingers got its name:


Long after Confrey’s heyday, Frankie Carle included one of his works, Stumbling on a 1940 recording. Give it a listen: 

The surprise and intricacy are still delightful after almost a century.


Zez Confrey and his Orchestra (1927)

A: Kitten on the Keys

B: Dizzy Fingers

Frankie Carle (1940)