Paul Schoenfield (b. 1947) is one of the premiere American composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His "Café Music" is representative of his output in its eclecticism and reliance on popular musical idioms. Regarding the origins of his piano trio, Schoenfield has written: "The idea of composing Café Music first came to me in 1985 after sitting in one night for the pianist of the house at Murray's Restaurant in Minneapolis. My intention was to write a kind of high-class, dinner-music music which could be played at a restaurant, but might also, just barely find its way into a concert hall."
"Café Music" (1985-6) features diverse popular American musical styles in each of its three movements and seems particularly indebted to African-American culture. The first movement is a tribute to ragtime and swing, full of jaunty dotted rhythms and short riffs for each instrument. The second movement recalls the Blues in its mournful introspection and passionate middle section. The last movement is a flashy Presto, which suggests the sort of instrumental virtuosity of the great jazz players, along with references to ragtime and dixieland. For all its derivations from older musical idioms, though, Schoenfield's "Café Music" reveals its late twentieth-century origins in its zany dissonance and complex, quirky rhythms.


updated: 8/11/2011