Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club September Meeting (9/24/2000)

Reported by Gary Rametta

The final Sunday of September was another sizzler at the Pasadena IHOP -- both temperature wise and with all the hot music coming out of the back room. Once again, a near-packed house of guests was entertained by more than a dozen limber-fingered pianists who filled the air with some great ragtime, blues, popular tunes, standards, jazz solos, tangos, habañeras, marches and novelty music. If you weren't able to join us, sorry we missed you... We hope you can make it to our next get-together on Sunday, October 29th.

The IHOP's banquet room was already bustling with activity when Gary Rametta opened the program with the Scott Joplin/Scott Hayden classic "Sunflower Slow Drag." Written in 1901, this number is a staple of ragtime repertoire, reflecting the sounds of Missouri Folk ragtime within the 4-strain structure that became the apotheosis of the "classic ragtime" genre.

Gary continued with James Scott's "Broadway Rag," published in 1922 by John Stark. This was Scott's last published rag and encapsulates all his harmonic, melodic and technical signatures. Gary concluded his set with Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton's masterful "Original Jelly Roll Blues."

Next up was Ron Ross. Ron began his set with a new rag of his own composition, "Sunday Serendipity Rag." This was the first time Ron's played this piece, and it was the kind one wished to hear immediately again. I hope Ron obliges us! Ron followed up with another of his outstanding habañeras, this one entitled "Mirella." Written about a year ago, it's another Ron Ross gem. I'm certainly looking forward to a Ron Ross CD containing all of his original tunes. He does a fantastic job!

Just back from his honeymoon in Hawaii with his new bride Judy, Bob Pinsker had a real treat in store for us: the music of Eubie Blake, with a unique twist: A medley of selections from the landmark 1921 Broadway musical Shuffle Along, which Blake scored along with lyricist Noble Sissle. Shuffle Along was the first African-American authored show to appear on Broadway, and it was such a hit that during its run there were three companies performing it while touring the country simultaneously.

Of the 21 numbers published from the musical, Bob's medley included 10. Bob prefaced his performance by saying his interpretation of the numbers would be "slightly jazzed up." His playing was upbeat and exact, and over the 10-minutes or in which Bob played, it was thoroughly enjoyable to hear the pieces performed as piano solos. I have to confess to not having heard many of them beforehand, but would like to thank Bob for treating us to such delightful works. Now, thinking about how I'd like to relive those moments again, I can't help but remember Gus Wilmorth. Before he passed on, Gus was ever present at our meetings and taped all the performances. I would like to see that tradition continued! Anybody else for purchasing a DAT recorder to keep a recorded history of our meetings?

After Bob played, the club welcomed Annette Givens from Bakersfield. Even though she's just recently begun playing regularly for us, Annette's clearly been studying ragtime for awhile—her notebook of selections is ample and her choices for performance are technically and artistically challenging. Her first piece was Galen Wilkes' widely popular "Creeks of Missouri" from 1983. She followed up with another contemporary ragtime composition, "Roberto Clemente," David Thomas Roberts' 1979 elegy named for the baseball Hall of Famer and humanitarian. Annette played both pieces with sincerity and authority. It is clear that her technique is advancing and that she's deepening her expressiveness at the keyboard.

Following Annette was Yuko Shimazaki. Yuko has developed a fondness and affinity for early tangos of the "Guardia Vieja" period in Argentina, which parallels the early years of ragtime here in the U.S. Yuko first played an exciting tango called "Raspail, The Golden Horse," by G.H. Matos Rodriguez. This piece has rhythms that seem to gallop, and an overall tone that's majestic. Her second piece was a lovely and subdued tango entitled "Velada Criolla," by Domingo Perez. Like many of Joplin's finest rags, this tango incorporates European classical music influences and marries them with the folk rhythms of the Americas. Combined with Yuko's playing, which exudes experience, depth of emotion and formidable technique, the overall result is genuinely moving.

Nancy Kleier never fails to spark up the proceedings with her humorous and unique thematic presentations. Her choice for this meeting was a gambling theme, in which the team of Raggedy Agnes and Raggedy Alfred try to outdo each other. Though always fun, Nancy's themes aren't just ends in themselves—they're opportunities to hear rarely played rags. First off was "Queen of Diamonds," a hot tango by contemporary composer Galen Wilkes. Nancy followed up with George Botsford's "Royal Flush," a very satisfying 1911 piece by the composer of the famous "Black and White Rag." The trials of the Raggedy duo came to a head with "Sneaky Shuffles," written in 1910 by Henry Lodge.

Following Nancy at the piano was Ruby Fradkin, whose ability increases each time she plays for us. Ruby got going with "Alouette," then dazzled us with the first three sections of Joplin's "Cascades" rag. Ruby doesn't yet have the finger span to handle octave runs, but her flawless playing of the difficult trio using single notes in the left hand was breathtaking. The ovation she received was well earned. Next, she performed "Playmate," then concluded (accompanied by the audience who sang along) with, appropriately, "Babyface." As usual, Ruby left everyone smiling and amazed.

The first duets of the afternoon came courtesy of George McClellan and Lee Roan, who always unearth musical treasures for us. They began with the 1923 popular hit "Barney Google" by Rose and Conrad, then continued with a four-handed encore of "Babyface" which gave everyone who didn't join in the first time a chance to sing along. Their final number was a delightful rendition of "Toot-Toot-Tootsie (Good-Bye)," made popular by Al Jolson. Can you name the film this piece was from?

After George and Lee's enjoyable performance, it was discovered that Ruby Fradkin had just recently celebrated her 10th birthday. The restaurant gave her an IHOP style cake—3 pancakes with whipped cream and a candle—while the audience sang "Happy Birthday to Ruby" with Tom Hanforth at the piano.

Tom began his set with "Yes We Have No Bananas." He noted that it came out around the same time as "Barney Google," which was so popular he used to sing it in Sunday school, much to the consternation of his teacher. Tom continued with the 1925 hit "Sleepy Time Gal" and concluded the first half of the meeting with the famous circus march "Entry of the Gladiators" by Czech-born composer J. Fucik.

After a short intermission, Gary started the second half with Arthur Marshall's "Kinklets" rag, then wrapped up his solo with "Scott Joplin's New Rag" from 1911.

Ron Ross was joined in his second set by Alan "The Great Romanovich" Bramer, with the two performing "Hello Ma Baby" and "Rockabye Baby With a Dixie Melody." Both were done in English and Romano-speak. The fearless Romanovich always leaves everyone stoked with an eerie chuckle.

Bill Mitchell, who had a paying gig earlier in the day, was kind enough to join us for the second half of the show. Clearly already warmed up, Bill really cooked on J. Bodewalt Lampe's "Glad Rag." Lampe also wrote "Creole Belles" in 1900, which was a huge hit and a staple of the John Philip Sousa band. Bill did a romping version of this, then continued in grand style with the Charles Hunter favorite "Queen of Love." By request, Bill played Charles Johnson's "Dill Pickles" to finish off his set.

Bob Pinsker came back up to the piano with James Scott's excellent "Troubador Rag," then concluded with an awesome piece of novelty piano: "A Blue Streak" by Roy Bargy from 1922.

Annette Givens returned to the keys with the seldom heard "The Old Boston Post Road," another charming work by contemporary ragtime composer Galen Wilkes. She ended her second set with Scott Joplin's ever-classic "Maple Leaf Rag."

Yuko gave us another taste of Argentinean tangos with a beautiful rendition of "En La Rambla" (On the Boardwalk) a passionate work composed by Manuel Aroztegui around 1900.

Nancy wrapped up with a trio of tunes that completed her story of Raggedy Agnes and Alfred at the gambling table. First was "Pearl of the Harem, an Oriental Rag" by Detroit composer Harry P. Guy, then "Rubies and Pearls," and finally "All the Money" by R. Birch—one of the many pseudonyms prolific composer Charles L. Johnson published under.

Ruby Fradkin took over the piano with three more crowd-pleasers: "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," "Tell Me Why," and Leadbelly's "Pick a Bale of Cotton."

Eric Marchese took time out from his demanding work schedule to join us in the latter half of the meeting. He played Clarence Woods' bluesy "Sleepy Hollow Rag," a really fine piece that typifies the Texas brand of ragtime. (Woods was born in Carthage, MO but lived most of his life in Texas). Eric closed his abbreviated set with our theme number "Rose Leaf Rag" another Scott Joplin masterwork.

Bill Mitchell and Gary Rametta concluded the meeting with a duet of, appropriately enough, "Tickled to Death" by Charles Hunter. By the end of the September meeting, the crowd was genuinely tickled by all the terrific music and piano performances that the afternoon brought. If you weren't able to share in the enjoyment in September, we hope you can make it in October. It promises to be another great show!

Musical Musing

By Susan Erb

Musical musing
So many songs put to words
Lyrics flow, as the music plays
Poetry accompanies the song
The heart sings along
Expression in song
Musical musing...

Musical musing
Does more to tell
Of love and loss
And depths within
Without a word, the language of the heart can sing.

Musical musing
Can make you dance
Or march, or tap your feet
Or do a mating call
And smile about the love-filled life
You live
Or dream about . . .

In a moment a mood is set
By the song in your head
So play a happy song
Of victory over the grave
Of hope for a new day
And happy endings
Of love come true,
And sufferings gone
And peace replacing war
And violence calmed,
And the beauty in the eye
Of flowers blooming and happy days gone by,
Of nature scenes which bring you joy
And love filled days ahead,
Of children's feet, which once were yours
So let us hear music pleasant to the ear.

You can travel anywhere
With Musical Musing
Let your thoughts roam
To the sound in the air
May the melody played bring harmony to the ear
Inspiration in near Rhythm and song
As we move along
On the journey Anywhere
With Musical Musing

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