Patrol Comique is an 1886 ragtime piece, though it's called a "patrol," a kind of syncopated 19th-century march intended to make fun of blacks in uniform. "Make fun" is a rather mild phrase under the circumstances--see the sheet music cover above, borrowed from this excellent blog. I'd call it shocking and/or over the top, but by the standards of pop racism, it's just another day at the sheet music racks of old.
The MUSIC, however, is amazing in the wonderful sense. Halfway into my first listen to this recording, I said, "It's ragtime!" Sure enough, Edward A. Berlin (Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History) agrees--referring to this piece and another "patrol," he wrote, "Both make occasional use of untied syncopation and other ethnic-suggesting features such as pentatonic and minor modes. As syncopated marches, these pieces already contain the most important traits of ragtime."
Given that the conventional account of ragtime has the music showing up in print in the late 1890s, Patrol Comique is major news (though not new news--just something treated casually by the scholars, for some reason). And given that the Victor Concert Band elected to record it in the post-ragtime year of 1929, we can guess that it had Pops-concert (aka light concert) status. Then again, our pop culture was still racist as anything in 1929, with Minstrel shows not yet a thing of the past, so maybe no special explanation is needed.
The history sucks; the music rocks. This is one of my best shellac finds ever. I'm glad I took a chance on the title, which I bought mainly because it's by the Victor Concert Band. Time to correct our ragtime calender.
Patrol Comique (Hindley)--Victor Concert Band, Dir. by Rosario Bourdon (Victor 22044; 1929)