Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

JUNE, 2001


Rose Leaf Ragtime Club May Meeting (5/27/2001)

Reported by Gary Rametta

Thanks to all of you who joined us for the May meeting of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club. A great showing by the members was rewarded by three-plus hours of simply wonderful music. Once again, the roster of performers was full and all displayed their varying and unique talents for everyone to enjoy.

Gary Rametta opened the program with James Scott's "Grace and Beauty" from 1909, one of the staples of classic ragtime and one of Scott's most admired works. Next, Gary was joined by Bill Mitchell for a duet version of Charles Hunter's "Queen of Love," a syncopated two-step with a memorable B section and harmonic, melodic and structural twists that signify Hunter's style of composition.

Bill Mitchell then soloed on "Sleepy Sydney," a 1907 composition by Archie Scheu of Cincinnati. This piece was recorded by Sousa's Band on Victor records in 1908. Bill continued with his always well-received "Porto Rico", then concluded with one of his favorite Joplin rags, "Scott Joplin's New Rag."

Up next was the duo of Lee Roan and George McClellan, combining on some popular Tin Pan Alley tunes. First was Jean Schwartz's "Chinatown, My Chinatown," from 1910, followed by Creamer and Layton's "After You've Gone," from 1918, and John Schonberger's "Whispering," from 1920.

Bob Pinsker came up from San Diego to perform for us. His first piece was a composition by bandleader Jules Buffano, the "Tucker Trot," from 1921, written in honor of Sophie Tucker. Bob then delved into some challenging and eminently listenable works by novelty composer and pianist Rube Bloom. First was "Blues," taken from the composer's 1931 "Moods" suite. Bob finished up with "Spring Fever," an earlier Bloom piece from 1926.

Martin Choate, a local pianist/composer and welcome new performer, was invited to share another of his unique original works. Martin's already given us the humorous piano/vocal number "I Done Left My Hip Boots in the Other Car," which he dueted on with Ron Ross a couple of meetings ago. This time, he premiered a terrific original ragtime solo called "Ragga con Dolcezza." I'm definitely looking forward to enjoying more of Mr. Choate's work!

The club next welcomed Stan Long, who's always jovial and ready to spice things up with his own brand of boogie-woogie, ragtime and imaginative medleys. Stan got his fingers working on "A Little Boogie Solo," an improvised piece that uses an assortment of boogie-woogie figures and progressions. He then dove into Joplin's "Elite Syncopations," from 1902. Though it sounds fun and simple, this piece isn't easy-without proper fingering, it can really twist your fingers. Stan's continued work on it has paid off nicely. Mr. Long finished his set with a miscellaneous medley, a syncopated mixture of tunes including "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles," "New York, New York," and "Someone to Watch Over Me."

Our youngest performer, Ruby Fradkin was up next. Ruby is definitely growing in more ways than one. Her first piece was Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band," played with verve and expertise. Next were the first two sections of Joplin's difficult "Cascades," on which Ruby displays increasing command. She continued with a new Leadbelly addition to her play list, "On a Monday,"-Ruby does an excellent job on all the Leadbelly numbers she plays. Miss Fradkin put the bookends on her first set with "Tom Dooley," played in perfect time and with great foot-stomping appeal.

Fred Hoeptner, a club regular and one of the leading contemporary ragtime composers, followed Ruby with his award-winning piece "Dalliance, a Ragtime Frolic." The accolades that Fred's received for this rag are well earned. Next was Fred's "Idyll of Autumn," which has lovely moving harmonies and a challenging, almost atonal middle section. Fred ended his set with Max Morath's "One for Amelia." A studied listening of this number reveals some of the harmonic inspiration for Fred's own works.

After a short break, some announcements and our semi-regular club raffle, the club welcomed Tom Handforth. In honor of the Memorial Day holiday, Tom decided to treat us to a medley of World War I-era songs. With fine segues from one piece to the next, Tom took us on a trip down memory lane, with "Over There," "Long Way to Berlin," "Roses of Picardy," "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em?," "My Buddy," "Pack up Your Troubles," "Rose of No Man's Land," "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," "Till We Meet Again," "Smiles," "Somebody Stole My Gal," "Jada" and "K-K-K-Katy." Throughout this musical odyssey, Tom drew many sing-a-longs from the audience. His performance was indeed appreciated.

George McClellan was invited up again to play some solo piano. He chose a medley of "Second-Hand Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin.'" As always, George's playing is rhythmically spot-on, harmonically sophisticated and immensely satisfying.

Yuko Shimazaki, becoming ever ragtime-fluent, had arranged for a duet of Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" with Bill Mitchell. It was a great combination, Yuko with a near-flawless execution of the printed score and Mr. Mitchell providing counterpoint, improvisation and swing. Overall, it was one of the better duo versions of this rag that I've heard.

Yuko continued her exploration of Joplin with a finely played "Silver Swan Rag," a composition found in 1970 off a piano roll and posthumously credited to Joplin. "Silver Swan" evokes a kind of crystalline beauty, with an underlying sense of longing and lament. I recall reading a reference to it in a Joplin book that suggests it was written in memory of his infant daughter who died.

Guitar/Banjoist Phil Cannon took over the mike and treated us to his special six-string renditions of classic rags. First was Joseph Lamb's intricate and flowing "Ethiopia." Phil's immersion in Lamb's work continues to bring rewards to both himself and the audience. It's indeed a pleasure to see his artistry and command of this material increase. He then soloed on Joplin's "Original Rags" from 1899. With its folksy, down-home feel, this number came across as ideal for interpretation on a six-stringed instrument. Phil concluded his set by bringing up Ruby Fradkin for a duet version of the Joplin/Marshall classic "Swipsey Cakewalk."

Next up was Les Soper from Simi Valley. Les made the trip to Pasadena with his washboard as well as his 3-ring binder of ragtime scores. His first performance was a fantastic washboard accompaniment to a cassette recording of pianist Big Tiny Little playing "Shine." Les followed up with two excellently-played piano solos, first Joplin's "The Chrysanthemum-An Afro-American Intermezzo," then Trebor Tichenor's "Stomping the Grapes." Les is a talented musician and a great contributor to the club.

The final solo of the day was accorded to Bob Pinsker, who gave us his first-ever piano/vocal performance. He chose an obscure 1920 piece called "It's Right Here for You-If You Don't Get It, 'Taint No Fault of Mine." This song had a definite bawdy appeal, and Bob's talk-sing delivery was at the same time funny and perfect.

The May meeting closed out with a sort of Rose Leaf Ragtime Club All-Star jam session that included Bill Mitchell and Ruby Fradkin on the pianos, Phil Cannon on Guitar/Banjo, Les Soper on Washboard and Don Rose on trumpet. This ad-hoc combo improvised on an extended 12-bar blues, highlighted by Don's outstanding solo work.

With a final ring of the cowbell off Les' washboard, the gavel fell on the monthly musicale. All who attended had a great time. If you couldn't make it, we hope you'll be able to stop by for our June meeting, this coming Sunday, June 24th from 2:30 - 5:30PM at the IHOP on Foothill Blvd.

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