Music critics have consistently defined James P. Johnson as a great early jazz pianist, originator of the 1920s Harlem "stride" style, and an important blues and jazz composer. In addition, however, Johnson was an innovator in classical music, composing symphonic music that incorporated American, and especially African American, traditions. Such a blend of musical elements was not entirely new: by 1924 both Milhaud and Gershwin had composed classical works that incorporated elements of jazz. Johnson, a serious musician more experienced than most classical composers with jazz, blues, spirituals, and popular music, was particularly suited to expand Milhaud's and Gershwin's experiments. In 1927 he completed his first large-scale work, the blues- and jazz-inspired Yamekraw, which included borrowings from spirituals and Johnson's own popular songs. Yamekraw, premiered successfully in Carnegie Hall, was major achievement for Johnson, becoming his most frequently performed extended work. It demonstrated vividly the possibility of assimilating contemporary popular music into the symphonic tradition.