Rose Leaf Ragtime Club October Meeting (10/28/2001)
Well, we're close to putting the ribbon around another year's worth of Rose Leaf Ragtime Club meetings. It's truly been a bountiful year for us, and all I can say is THANK YOU. To all of you who take part in our get-togethers by coming out every month and supporting us, Thank You. To all the performers who continue to cultivate your musical talent, amaze us with your artistry, and keep the ragtime spirit alive, Thank You.
The continued success of our club causes me to reflect on our founder, P.J. Schmidt, whom I miss dearly. The Rose Leaf club was his brainchild, his labor of love. Phil's generosity, compassion and dedication to this unique American art form kept us going when it seemed like we were hanging from a thread. There were other selfless contributors whose volunteer efforts were also integral to our club's growth. Among those fondly remembered is Gus Willmorth, the former editor of this newsletter and audio chronicler of years of meetings. Also, John Roache, whose pioneering work in MIDI played a major role in spreading ragtime over the Internet and helped increase our club's visibility.
Other club members who've made and continue to make vital contributions include Bill Mitchell, Ron Ross, Darrell Woodruff, Becky Todd, Bob Kirby, Lee Roan, Eric Marchese and Fred Hoeptner.
When I visited P.J. in the hospital before he passed away, I promised him that I would continue his work and keep the club going. Of course, this would have been impossible if not for the involvement, encouragement and support of all Rose Leaf Ragtime Club members. In this time of Thanksgiving, I express my sincere gratitude to each and every one of you.
Our October meeting began with the sounds of one of the hallmark compositions of ragtime: James Scott's 1909 classic rag "Grace and Beauty," played by Gary Rametta.
Bill Mitchell continued with a wonderfully-played piece by Indianan May Aufderheide, "A Totally Different Rag" from 1910. Next was James Scott's "Quality Rag," a 1911 composition in which the 26-year-old Scott's pianistic and rag-writing brilliance were in full bloom.
Bob Pinsker introduced us to some works by Ohio-born ragtimer Clarence Jones. Jones lived most of his life in Chicago, where he was a highly regarded pianist and teacher (one of his students was blues pianist Jimmy Blythe). Bob's first selection was Jones' 1913 "Thanks for the Lobster," (subtitled "A One-step, Turkey trot, Fox trot, Tango, Two-step). It featured a danceable rhythm, humorous vocal callouts and imaginative piano figurings. Next was "Modulations," an ambitious 1923 composition that showcased Jones' novelty rag-writing skill.
Following Bob was guitar/banjoist Phil Cannon, who gave us a marvelous version of Joplin's masterpiece "Gladiolus Rag," then a yeoman's effort on Luckey Roberts' difficult "Junkman Rag."
Ron Ross came up next, announcing the release of his CD "Ragtime Renaissance" and an upcoming appearance on radio station KSBR's ragtime show hosted by club member Jeff Stone. Ron played two original compositions from his CD, first "Joplinesque, A Gringo Tango," then "Sweet is the Sound." Both are lovely works—pretty, singing melodies accentuated by a habañera rhythm.
Next, we were pleased to introduce our surprise guest of the day, Nan Bostick, a nationally known ragtime author, raconteur and performer. Nan is currently researching and writing a book on the history of ragtime in Detroit, to coincide with that city's 300th birthday. Her first performance was of a rather obscure work by Louise Gustin, a Motown music educator, "X.N.Tric Rag," from the early 1900s. Next was "Hiawatha," a popular 1901 "Indian" tune penned by her Grand-Uncle Charles N. Daniels. Daniels was a composer/arranger/publisher from Kansas City who worked in St. Louis and eventually settled in Detroit, where he worked for the Jerome H. Remick Company, the most prolific rag-publishing house in U.S. history. Daniels is noted for bringing to market two seminal ragtime compositions, Scott Joplin's "Original Rags" and "Dill Pickles," Charles L. Johnson's smash hit from 1906-07. Nan closed her set with a charming rag from Detroiter Harry P. Guy, "Pearl of the Harem." Nan's playing was a total delight; her touch, phrasing, expressiveness and interpretations were first-rate.
George McClellan stepped up to solo on an eminently listenable rendition of the 1922 Braham/Furber staple "Limehouse Blues." Next, he premiered an original, untitled rag that came to him earlier that morning as he popped out of bed. I'll call it "Early Morning Rag," which seems apt. George improvised on its two themes, the first being a parade of eighth-note runs in the ragtime tradition, while the second theme was colored with some really thoughtful harmonies that seemed to draw inspiration from late-night, smoky-roomed, solitary exploration at the keys.
Stan Long entertained us next with Joplin's last-published rag, "Magnetic Rag." Unlike the majority of Joplin's rags, this one consistently changes moods from one section to the next. It is Joplin's most personal statement, and one of his most difficult to interpret. Stan followed up with a new addition to his repertoire, a three-section rag by George Cobb called "Feedin' the Kitty," which Stan learned after coming across the piece on the Internet as a MIDI file, downloading it and working on it. Sounded good!
Nancy Kleier chose a Halloween-themed set featured two little-known works by New Yorker Ford Dabney, composer of the club favorite "Porto Rico" which Bill Mitchell sometimes plays. This time, Nancy chose to associate the rags with the trick-or-treat costumes worn by our mythical ragtime couple, Raggedy Alfred and Raggedy Agnes. First was "Oh, You Angel," (1911) with a nod to Agnes' halo-and-wings outfit. Alfred's horns-and-pitchfork costume invoked "Oh, You Devil," (1909). It seemed to me that the "Angel" number was more dissonant, with ominous-sounding, two-handed descending chromatic scales. "Devil" sounded much more diatonic, thus pleasing to the ear. Were the titles accidentally switched somewhere along the line, or was my hearing off-base that day?
11 year-old Ruby Fradkin took over the keys, noting that it was two years ago this month that she first played at the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club. She thanked everyone for their support and encouragement. Ruby drew unanimous cheers from the roomful of guests. It's been a privilege and joy to witness her incredible advancement in just two short years. For her set, Ruby performed the first three sections of Joplin's 1902 "Elite Syncopations," quite excellently. Next, she played Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band," which gave her the opportunity to stretch out her growing improvisational skills.
As our brief intermission came to a close, Yuko Shimazaki soloed on two Joplin numbers. First, his exquisite "Nonpareil" rag which she played beautifully, then his masterful "Fig Leaf Rag, A High Class Rag," in which she was joined by Phil Cannon for an impromptu duet. Again, her playing and delivery were outstanding, and Phil's solid accompaniment added breadth and body to the overall sound.
Gary Rametta returned to the keys with a new addition to his play-list, Eubie Blake's magnificent "Eubie's Classical Rag." The crowd seemed to really like the piece, even though Gary hasn't quite gotten the piece entirely under his fingers. Yours truly resolves to continue working on this piece, and will enlist Yuko's help in smoothing out some of the tough-to-finger phrases.
Yuko was invited back up by popular demand. This time she chose a rag-tango from Argentina, circa 1900: "Velada Criolla" (Veiled Creole Woman) by Domingo Peres. It's a solemn, gently flowing story that combines European classical, tango rhythm and a three-part rag-like structure. As usual, Yuko's touch, tempo, phrasing and dynamics were marvelous.
Next, we delved into a series of thoroughly enjoyable piano-vocal duets. First was the husband/wife team of Judy and Bob Pinsker, who gave us "Crazy for That Kind of Love" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Judy's vocal delivery and presence were really engaging, while Bob contributed some great keyboard accompaniment and soloing.
Bill Mitchell then returned to the keys, this time with enthusiastic newcomer Gwen Girvan, a local piano teacher and performer who was really tuned-in to and turned-on by the music she'd been enjoying during her first visit to our club. They hit the road running with W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," featuring soulful vocals by Gwen and great keyboard work by Bill (and Gwen as well, who dueted with Bill during his solo). They followed up with another golden-age gem, "Lazy River." Great fun!
Following Gwen and Bill were Alan "The Great Bramanovich" Bremer on vocal and Ron Ross at the piano. They kicked off with "Put a Nickel in the Nickelodeon," during which Gwen was so excited she rushed the stage to harmonize with Alan on the as-written and as-Bramanovized vocals. The duo then segued into "Toot-toot-Tootsie," then finished off with "Hello My Ragtime Gal." As usual, the Great Bramanovich was in fine form, adding a bit of levity and hilarity to the proceedings, while Ron's piano accompaniment laid a solid rhythmic foundation and provided harmonic support. Overall, the performance had many of us in stitches.
Moving toward the close of the meeting, we continued with some piano duets. First was the ad-hoc duo of Nan Bostick and Nancy Kleier, playing Charles Daniels "Cotton Time," then his "Borneo Rag," which they performed vaudeville style, i.e., with physical comedy accompaniment to highlight the music. Lots of fun and very well played.
Gary Rametta and Bill Mitchell then dueted on Joplin's "Original Rags," followed by Bob Pinsker and Bill on George Botsford's "Black and White Rag." Next were Ruby, Bill and Phil, combining on a happy, folksy version of the Joplin/Marshall classic "Swipesy Cakewalk." Gary and Bill put the wraps on the duets with the Joplin/Hayden collaboration, "Sunflower Slow Drag."
Bob Pinsker then returned to put the bookends on another great Rose Leaf Ragtime Club meeting with a down-and-dirty Southwest rag from Dallas, circa 1914: "Majestic Rag," by Rawls and Neel.
This month's meeting takes place on 11/25. We'll be focusing on Joplin rags, waltzes, marches and syncopations, so there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy. See you then!
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