Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club December Meeting (12/31/2000)
In Memory of Bob "Ragtime Bob" Bramhall

Reported by Gary Rametta

Happy New Year!

The Rose Leaf Ragtime Club of Pasadena said goodbye to 2000 with another fun-filled, foot-stomping celebration of America's musical heritage. A couple of months ago, we nearly voted not to hold a December meeting because some said, "nobody would show." Nobody would show? Well, once again, the banquet room at the IHOP was filled to capacity with guests, and the afternoon's music-which featured some new performers and lots of musical surprises-was received with much enthusiasm.

As the crowd began to get settled, Yuko Shimazaki opened the musicale with a graceful rendition of our club's theme number, Scott Joplin's "Rose Leaf Rag" from 1907. This piece shows Joplin in a legato and pensive mood, with a first section that seems influenced by both Mozart and Debussy. The second and third sections feature beautiful melodies, and Joplin brings the piece to a satisfying conclusion with very nice use of passing, diminished and minor chords.

Gary Rametta welcomed the attendees and mentioned the passing of our good friend and club member Bob Bramhall. Ragtime Bob was an avid supporter of ragtime and our club. We are saddened by his passing and send our prayers to him and his family.

Gary dedicated his performance of the James Scott classic "Grace and Beauty " in remembrance of Bob.

Nancy Kleier came up and introduced us to the works of a contemporary ragtime composer from Argentina named Ruben Villaverde, who she met last fall at the West Coast Ragtime Festival. She performed two of his works, first "Centennial Rag" in honor of the new millennium, then "Ragtime Recuerdos (Ragtime Memories)." Both were well-constructed and sounded like authentic early 20th Century Missouri rags. Nancy did a nice job on both. She closed her first set with a staple of her New Year's repertoire, John Philip Sousa's "Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company March" from 1924. This selection was quite appropriate for the occasion, with its inclusion of "Auld Lang Syne."

Next was Ron Ross, who gave us several minutes of sheer delight. His first performance was a piano/vocal number he composed in 2000 called "Good Thing Going." In it, Ron laments-with wry commentary-of love gone wrong. The song has a foot-tapping, ragged beat, while the melody shows touches of Charleston influence. By request, he then played an oldie-but-goodie he wrote and recorded about 20 years ago; a country-flavored tune called "Studio Sensation." This hilarious song is a true account of Ron's experience in the studio when the producer decided that Ron's purposely off-key vocal delivery-rather than a professional singer-was just what the recording called for. "Studio Sensation" drew huge applause. Ron finished off his set with his most recent rag, "Sunday Serendipity."

Talented pianist Les Soper was our next performer. Les brought with him British vocalist Joe Segal, a fine gent who's partnered with him for the past 10 years in a vaudeville act. While Les played some great accompaniment on piano, Joe strutted up front and down the aisles, belting out popular standards from yesteryear like "Bill Bailey (Won't You Please Come Home), "Somebody Stole My Gal," "Don't Bring Lulu," and "Is it True What They Say About Dixie?" Joe is a great showman, with a terrific voice that strongly projects and a true gift for entertaining an audience. Their set was a real treat!

Next was Ruby Fradkin, who departed from her ragtime playing to perform some popular tunes from the '20's, '30's and '40's. First was a well-played medley of "You're a Grand 'Ol Flag," and "I'm a Yankee Doodle-Dandy." Next was one of her recent favorites, folk singer Leadbelly's "Ha-ha This'a Way." Ruby demonstrated good technique on this piece, with strong right- and left-hand work, and facility with key changes. She concluded with an abbreviated syncopated version of "Alouette."

Guitar-banjoist Phil Cannon, tuba player Chuck Rimmer and Ruby closed out the first half of the trio versions of "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Babyface," which featured some enjoyable soloing by Phil, and "Tom Dooley." Ruby is getting more comfortable in a multi-instrumental setting and kept the guys on their toes by modulating to different key signatures.

Yuko Shimazaki opened the second half of the show with a slow, elegant and soulful rendition of Joplin's "Solace-A Mexican Serenade." This is a new addition to her repertoire, and she's quickly mastering it.

Gary returned to the keys to play "Something Doing," a happy, upbeat rag written by Joplin and his student/protégé Scott Hayden in 1903.

Les Soper came back up for an encore piano solo performance of "Rose Leaf Rag." His rendition was crisp, upbeat and exuded a genuine ragtime feel. For his last piece, Les asked Joe Segal to come back up and join him in a piano and vocal version of "Ballin' the Jack." The audience thoroughly enjoyed Joe's presentation and I'm certain is looking forward to having him return to entertain us some more!

The great music continued in the form of a New Orleans combo-style performance by trumpeter Don Rose (a former player with Turk Murphy in San Francisco), clarinetist Jay Stock, Chuck Rimmer, Phil Cannon and Ruby Fradkin of "When the Saints Go Marching In." In addition to soloing, Chuck, Ruby and Phil provided solid rhythmic support for Jay and Don's fantastic, advanced improvisations. Next was "Smile," followed by "When You're Smiling."

Nancy Kleier's second set featured a theme of things to do on New Year's Eve. First, put the baby to sleep. That is, with a fox trot, "Cradle Rock," from 1916. The left hand of this rag employs a back-and-forth figure that signifies the cradle rocking. Next, keep yourself warm with a nice hot beverage. How about "Hot Chocolate Rag (1908)," which features a very catchy first strain. Finally, don't forget to bundle up from head to toe to stay cozy; "The Foot Warmer (1914)."

Ron Ross took the mike to make a few thank-yous to several of the folks who've volunteered their support to keep the club growing, flourishing and visible. Then he welcomed pianist Doug Haise, an infrequent performer from Carlsbad. Doug performed three Joplin pieces that were part of his concert at the Indianapolis Ragtime Festival last fall. First was "Paragon Rag (1909, from Joplin's New York years)," then the hauntingly beautiful Joplin/Louis Chauvin collaboration "Heliotrope Bouquet (1907)," and finally, a molto-vivace performance of "Elite Syncopations (1902)." Doug's playing was strong and full of verve and his commentary was informative and well-spoken. His set was very well received. We hope his schedule permits him to join us more often.

The club next welcomed our senior pianist of the day, Tom Handforth. Tom's gentlemanly style, self-effacing manner, smiling eyes and dexterous fingers certainly belie his 85 years. A former circus pianist, he also has loads of talent. Tom played a medley of tunes, including "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Everyone was genuinely appreciative of Tom's performance.

Phil Cannon returned to perform two solos on his guitar-banjo. First was James Scott's "Ragtime Oriole," then club member Ron Ross' "Digital Rag." Phil did a marvelous job on both - it's a treat to hear his repertoire continue to expand and his technique improve each time he plays.

Ron Ross and Alan Bramer followed, tickling the crowd with piano and vocal duets of a couple oldies, "Hello Ma' Ragtime Gal," and "Rock-a-bye Baby With a Dixie Melody.

With the show coming to a close, Yuko Shimazaki took over the keys with a sensitive and beautifully played dedication to Bob Bramhall, Frederic Chopin's "L'Adieu" waltz.

Ron and Alan (The Great Bramanovich) performed one final number in Bramano-speak; "April Showers." Gary then joined Doug in a warp-speed rendition of Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," after which Nancy put the wraps on another successful meeting with a sing-along version of "Auld Lang Syne."

The year 2000 was an unqualified success for us. Attendance really blossomed, we welcome many new regular and guest players and we're getting a new piano. 2001 promises to be even brighter! We hope to see you at our next meeting in Pasadena on Sunday, January 28th at 2:30 PM.

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