Features and Reviews
CD Review: Ragtime for a Summer Afternoon
Artist: Les Soper
By Bill Mitchell
The Saturday Afternoon Rag; The Chrysanthemum; The Junk Man Rag; Bohemia; Triangle Jazz Blues; American Beauty, Grace and Beauty; Shreveport Stomp; Rose Leaf Rag; The Wrong Rag; The Ragtime Betty; Echoes from the Snowball Club; Ragtime Bobolink; Gladiolus Rag; Smiles and Chuckles; Lone Jack to Knob Noster
Les Soper, a Rose Leaf Club regular, has recorded a timely CD release he calls "Ragtime for a Summer Afternoon." He has chosen a program of sixteen delightful selections. Half are by the so-called "big three" of classic ragtime: Scott Joplin, James Scott, and Joseph F. Lamb. The balance consists of a nice variety of material from other composers of merit.
A retired public-school music teacher and un-retired piano teacher, Les has participated in several ragtime festivals, including the West Coast and the Sutter Creek. His playing is characterized by a disciplined respect for the scores, a decisive staccato attack, and a sprightly lilt. It all adds up to a crisp and melodic style that is all his own.
At our meetings Les often includes the music of contemporary composers, and he honors a couple of them on this disc. Colorado's Jack T. Rummel composed "The Saturday Afternoon Rag" (1987) and "Lone Jack to Knob Noster" (1991). The latter, a folksy and idiosyncratic rag, celebrates the stretch of highway between two oddly named towns on the drive from Kansas City to Sedalia. Maine's Glenn Jenks is the composer of the aptly-titled "The Wrong Rag" (1987).
A couple of early New Orleans pianist/composers are included. Irwin Leclere was house pianist at the Triangle Theater in N.O. up to World War I. His "Triangle Jazz Blues" (1917) is neither a jazz nor blues number, but a catchy rag. Possibly Leclere was trying to cash in on the emerging popularity of jazz and blues. Jelly Roll Morton needs no introduction, of course. His "Shreveport Stomp" (1925) is a killer to play, but Les has no problems with it.
"Echoes from the Snowball Club" (1898) is a ragtime waltz by Harry P. Guy. It is supposed to have been named for the Detroit Musicians' Union, founded by Blacks, which was nicknamed the "Snowball Club." Luckey Roberts' "Junk Man Rag" (1913) was probably the composer's first published piece. Jason and Tichenor in Rags and Ragtime characterize it as "...one of the most joyous romps in ragtime literature." Another rollicking fun rag is F. Henri Klickmann's "Smiles and Chuckles" (1917).
As for the selections by Joplin, Scott, and Lamb, they are good choices from some of the best of their classic rags.
Enough said. This CD is highly recommended. If you would like to order a copy, you should phone Les at (805) 527-6628 or send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.