Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club January Meeting (1/27/2002)

Reported by Gary Rametta

About forty or so ragtimers joined us on a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon to enjoy another Rose Leaf Club meeting. Turned out to be lots of fun. All the players were able to enjoy good seat time at the keys and/or mike, and as usual, we heard some really good music.

Gary Rametta and Bill Mitchell opened the proceedings with a four-rag duet set of Scott Joplin classics: "Something Doing" (actually co-penned along with his student prodigy Scott Hayden), "Original Rags" (Joplin's first-published rag in 1899), "Maple Leaf Rag," the standard-bearer of all rags, and "Sunflower Slow Drag," another Joplin/Hayden gem. Joplin is simply joyous.

Ron Ross then debuted a new composition, "Green River," a pleasant and romantic habanera/two-step. Next was another new tune, this time one of his humorous and ironic piano/vocal numbers telling of love gone awry, called "Getting Over You."

Gary came back up to play "The Show Me Rag, A Missouri Defiance" by St. Louis' Trebor Tichenor. Trebor is like the modern-day CEO of ragtime in the U.S., with a piano roll and sheet music collection second to none, and a knowledge base of ragtime that's without peer. He's also a great folk rag composer. "Show Me" is one of his vigorous, bluegrass-like pieces with great thematic development, strong rhythmic support and thick sonority.

Fred Hoeptner played splendidly, starting with Max Morath's masterful "One for Amelia" (named in honor of Joseph Lamb's wife Amelia, who was instrumental in publishing some of his unpublished manuscripts after Blesh/Janis' "They All Played Ragtime" became a sensation). Next, Fred gave us Lamb's beautiful "Ragtime Nightingale," one of the composer's signature pieces.

Ruby Fradkin was on the program early this time, and started out with a new addition to her repertoire, a Latin-American waltz named "Il Sorisso," (The Happy Smile). It was delightful to listen to and well played. Next, Ruby unfolded her own versions of "You are my Sunshine" and "Baby Face." She's continually making these standards more and more her own, injecting her own personality, technique and ideas into them. It's a joy to hear her play.

Phil Cannon strapped on his guitar/banjo and played two Joplin compositions, first the demanding "Magnetic Rag," the last rag Joplin published, and "Reflection Rag," which Stark brought out posthumously, but which sounds like a relatively early Joplin composition. Phil did a magnificent job on both.

Next up was Bill Mitchell, quickly finding a terrific groove on the Tennessee folk rag "Tickled to Death" by Charles Hunter. This was followed up by Henry Lodge's "Temptation Rag," a well-known piece that's nonetheless played all too seldom at our club. It was great to hear it played live and, of course, wonderful to hear it coming from Bill.

One Bill followed another, with Bill Coleman taking up the hot seat and giving the keys a workout on "At a Georgia Camp Meeting" and the old favorite "Turkey in the Straw."

With that, we hit the halfway point and adjourned for a brief intermission.

After some socializing, announcements and our monthly raffle, Gary got the second half of the meeting going with "Scott Joplin's New Rag" and James Scott's tender "Ragtime Betty."

Bill Mitchell took over the piano with a languid version of "Stormy Weather," perfectly capturing the mood of the day as the raindrops outside splattered on the concrete, glass and rooftop. This he followed up on a positive note with James Scott's lively "Sunburst Rag." To top it off, he got down and dirty with (by request) Jelly Roll's deservedly admired "The Pearls."

Phil returned with another Joe Lamb masterwork, this time "Topliner" rag, considered by some critics to be one of the three greatest rags ever written. Phil captured its lush, flowing, melancholy beauty. Next, Phil played Joplin's "Wall Street Rag," dedicating it especially to Ron Ross, who requested it a couple of months ago, but no one had come forward to perform it until Phil. Phil stayed on as Ron joined him in a duet of Ron's own "Retro Rag," one of my personal favorites off Ron's "Ragtime Renaissance" CD.

After "Retro," Ron invited Alan (The Great Bramanovich) Breimer to join him and Phil on some old favorites, first "Hello My Baby," then "Toot, Toot, Tootsie," and Tony Jackson's "Pretty Baby." As usual, it was music followed by mania, followed by mayhem. Tongue in cheek and cringing brow aside, it's always hard not to crack up when The Great Bramanovich wields the mike.

Ruby had the distinction of following Phil, Ron and Alan. She started with a creative medley that consisted of "Tom Dooley" wrapped around "Alouette." Then, Ruby brought up Phil, Bill Mitchell and percussionist James to join her on an extended, soulful performance of Handy's "St. Louis Blues," replete with improvisation, individual soloing, a constantly driving beat and an honest-to-goodness blues feel.

Fred Hoeptner was asked to come up and perform some of his own compositions. This time, he chose "Dalliance, a Ragtime Frolic" and "Idyll of Autumn." Both are stunning works, original, imaginative, sensitive, powerful and intricate. It was indeed a special treat to be able to hear this quality of music live in a local IHOP on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Ron Ross returned with one of his recent works, "Nostalgia," followed by his "Sunday Serendipity," a fun, cheery rag off his CD.

Gary took us around the final turn with Joplin's "Sugar Cane" rag, and Bill Mitchell brought the house down and the meeting to an end with two Jelly Roll Morton classics, "New Orleans Blues (Joys)" and "Stratford Hunch," a.k.a. "Chicago Breakdown."

With that, we said "au revoir" and agreed to meet on Sunday February 24th at 2:30 PM.

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