CD Review: Ragtime Renaissance
Original compositions by Ron Ross

By Gary Rametta

Though American music has undergone numerous transformations since the ragtime era, ragtime has never gone away. Today, its spirit lives on, in the many ragtime clubs, societies, festivals and concerts across the country, and through the contributions of new composers like Californian Ron Ross.

In Ragtime Renaissance, Ron builds on the traditions of the ragtime form and infuses it with his 21st century sensibility, full of inventiveness, wit, romanticism, charm and rhythmic vitality.

By day a stockbroker, Ron is a life-long musician and composer. Born in Detroit, he began formal schooling on the piano when he was only five. By his 13th birthday, his ear had already developed to the point where he could take songs he listened to on the radio and reconstruct them on the piano without the aid of sheet music.

Soon after, he started writing his own pieces and eventually left formal training. In the intervening years, Ron continued to foster his gift for composing. A self-described musical chameleon, he's absorbed and written in a variety of styles along the way. His compositional portfolio includes pop tunes, folk, country, comedy and movie music.

Interestingly, Ron didn't try his hand at ragtime until 1980, when he attempted, with unremarkable success, to learn some of Joplin's rags. He lost interest for several years but, in 1989, at the suggestion of a friend, attended his first meeting of the Los Angeles Maple Leaf Club. It was then that he caught the proverbial ragtime bug.

Ron says it took nine years of frequent ragtime listening (1989-98) in order for him to finally "get the rhythm." His resulting first rag, "Rickety Rag," contains the trademarks he employs in all his rags: clever turnarounds, tempo breaks, chromatic scales, moving tonal centers and changing moods.

Just as the spirit of ragtime impassions Ron Ross, so his artistry will capture you. Whether it's the upbeat, show tune-like feel of "Digital Rag" and "Sunday Serendipity," the lovely and evocative "Joplinesque," "Mirella" and "Sweet is the Sound," or the whimsical vocal numbers "Studio Sensation" and "Good Thing Going" (featuring an impeccable performance by 20's song stylist Janet Klein), you'll likely find yourself returning to Ragtime Renaissance and discovering something new and pleasurable each time.

This CD may be ordered from Ronross Music, P.O. Box 5465, North Hollywood, CA 91616. Phone (818) 766-2384. Email: Price: $16 + $1 shipping. (CA residents add 8% sales tax).

John T. Carney's Original Rags for Download

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