Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

MARCH, 2002

NUMBER 71

Rose Leaf Ragtime Club February Meeting (2/24/2002)

Reported by Gary Rametta


Greetings! Can you believe we're already finishing up the first quarter of 2002? If you haven't been to one of our get-togethers lately, well, maybe you better come on out and get your ragtime while you can.

Our February meeting got underway with Gary Rametta and Bill Mitchell playing in duet mode on several ragtime classics, including James Scott's "Honeymoon Rag" and "Grace and Beauty," Joe Lamb's "Ragtime Nightingale," and Scott Joplin's "Something Doing," Maple Leaf Rag" and "Peacherine Rag."

Bill continued with a few solos, first James Scott's "Climax Rag," which was reportedly based on silent film accompaniment music he composed (Scott worked as a theatre organist, among other musical occupations). Next was Jelly Roll Morton & Louis Armstrong's "Wild Man Blues," followed by another James Scott piece, the lovely rag ballad "Rag Sentimental."

Yuko Shimazaki performed next on "Fig Leaf Rag," one of Scott Joplin's most admired masterpieces, a true ragtime classic. As usual, Yuko's playing was simply wonderful.

Stan Long returned after missing last month due to a hospital stay and some post-operative recovery time at home. His doctor advised him to walk a lot, so Stan said he's been busy doing just that: from his bed to his piano! His set consisted of Joplin's "Solace" and "Maple Leaf Rag," and his own boogie-woogie-blues-pop improvisation, a fun concoction of themes and ideas.

Ron Ross followed up with two solos, first Joseph Lamb's danceable "Cleopatra Rag," then a new composition from his own pen (or fingers, I should say): "Cloudy," a rag-waltz.

Guitar-banjoist Phil Cannon brought a vintage guitar to play rather than his banjo, and the results were excellent. First, he asked to redeem himself for what he felt was a less-than stellar performance of Joplin's "Wall Street Rag" a couple of months ago. "I'm no quitter," he said, and Phil proceeded to play this rag perfectly. Next, he paid tribute to Ron Ross by playing Ron's "Sunday Serendipity." Phil's playing was spot-on in this terrific composition by Ron.

Following Phil was Les Soper, who started out with "Baroque Rag," by Swiss ragtime pianist Martin Jager. It's a creative and quite lovely ragging of J.S. Bach; in fact it may be based on some actual Bach pieces, since some of it sounded so familiar. Next, Les delved into "Whippoorwill Hollow," a sweet gem by contemporary composer Galen Wilkes. Les finished up with Joseph Lamb's "Bohemia," another ragtime classic for all time.

Following a short intermission, Nancy Kleier took over the mike and introduced the Pasadena Chamber Ensemble, a ragtime concert band consisting of flute, piccolo, 2 violins, cello, bass and Nancy on piano. It was a joy to hear this variety of instruments and players coming together on some of Scott Joplin's great works, including "Peacherine Rag," "Bink's Waltz" and "Bethena." In addition, the ensemble accompanied a vocal performance of "That Paradise Rag."

Gary Rametta followed up at the keys with "Rippling Waters," a quick and clean ditty by Harlem stride pianist extraordinaire Willie "The Lion" Smith.

Fred Hoeptner continued, first with James Scott's simple (but tricky) and effective "Evergreen Rag" then with Adaline Shepard's "Pickles and Peppers," a well-known 1906 folk rag that William Jennings Bryan used as a theme during his 1908 campaign for U.S. President (he lost to Taft).

It was then a pleasure to introduce a new performer, Bob Mitchell, whom Ron Ross met at Kulaks Woodshed in the San Fernando Valley. Bob sat down with two totally energizing pieces, first Harry Jentes' "Bantam Step" a late rag from 1916. Bob's version was interesting and enjoyable. However, his next piece, Jelly Roll Morton's "Seattle Hunch," was off-the-chart fantastic! Bob said he used the James Dapogny transcription of Morton's 1929 solo for Victor records as a foundation, then "began subtracting notes" so he could play it. If he did subtract any, I couldn't tell. Bob was definitely playing Jelly Roll.

After a raffle that consisted of a handful of CDs, LPs and subscriptions (a big thank-you to Bill Mitchell who always contributes rarities), we welcomed Gwen Girvin up to the keys. Gwen swung out the Gulbransen a bit so she could face the audience while she accompanied herself on "Hard-Hearted Hannah" (The Vamp from Savannah). She continued with Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'." In addition to Gwen's totally soulful, smoky vocals, she plays some really hot piano. This was evidenced by her final piece, Zez Confrey's classic "Dizzy Fingers." Smokin'!

Nancy Kleier came back to solo on some winter-related ragtime tunes. First was Alvin Marx' "Frigid Frolics" from 1905. Then "Toboggan Rag" a 1912 piece by writer John F. Barth. The coup de grace was Arthur Pryor's "Frozen Bill Rag," from 1909.

Ruby Fradkin took us the rest of the way home, first with solos on "Babyface," and an Italian waltz called "Il Sorisso," then duetting with Bill Mitchell on the Joplin/Marshall classic "Swipesy" and W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues."

Les was invited to put the icing on the cake. This he did with "Canadian Capers," a 1915 hit by Chandler/White/Cohen. By this time, we were well overtime, but the guests still rose reluctantly from their chairs. We hope to see you this month (March 31th) for another ragtime adventure!


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