Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

MAY, 2002


Rose Leaf Ragtime Club April Meeting (4/28/2002)

Reported by Gary Rametta

We were blessed with a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon for the April meeting. However, at 2:30 p.m. it looked as if attendance would be down, both in musicians and audience, but people kept drifting in and we were soon up to speed. The meeting turned out to be an exciting one with some new faces and new talents. Our regular emcee, Gary Rametta, was unable to make the meeting, so Ron Ross very ably did the honors.

Ron invited Bill Mitchell to get the music underway. For openers, Bill played Joplin's charming rag of l903, "Elite Syncopations," whose highly syncopated measures in the fourth section its publisher, John Stark, characterized as "frenzied." Bill followed up with "Red Pepper," One of Henry Lodge's best rags, and then, by way of contrast, the pensive "Rag Sentimental" by James Scott.

Nancy Kleier, ("The little old rag lady from Pasadena" as she calls herself), noted that we are now well into the allergy season in Southern California. This month's episode in the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy saga had them suffering from the allergens suggested by "Honeysuckle Rag," by George Botsford, "Clover Blossom Rag," by Bud Manchester, and "Goldenrod Rag," by Kathi Backus. Ms. Backus, by the way, was a regular performer for many years at the Maple Leaf Club meetings in L.A., but for some years now has lived in Santa Barbara.

Our third performer was Shirley Case, a resident of Laguna Beach, attending the Rose Leaf Club for the first time. She opened with a difficult Eubie Blake composition, "Eubie's Classical Rag," played flawlessly, and if you closed your eyes you might believe the composer himself was at the keyboard. Shirley followed up with "Marigold Rag," by Billy Mayerl, the English piano prodigy. Ms. Case's masterful performances brought down the house.

Next up was the duo of Phil Cannon and Gwen Girvins who had prepared something quite out of the ordinary. With Phil accompanying her on banjo/guitar, Gwen gave an interpretation in song and dance of the Joplin classic, "The Entertainer." As usual, Phil had transcribed the score for his instrument. Gwen had memorized the seldom-heard lyrics that were added at some point after the piece became a popular success. She belted them out as she pranced and strutted, lifting her hat frequently to the audience. As an encore, with Gwen at the piano, the duo rendered "Alley Cat," that old pizza parlor favorite.

Ron then introduced our second newcomer, 14-year-old Andrew Barrett, who played two popular items: Harry Belding's "Good Gravy Rag," and Charles L. Johnson's "Dill Pickles." Andrew is the son of Dan Barrett, an internationally known jazz trombonist. Andrew has had three years of piano lessons, giving him excellent technique, and he has fallen in love with ragtime. This young Costa Mesa resident brought down the house for the second time that day.

Stan Long was our next performer. He had effectively chosen two starkly contrasting pieces. Joplin's "Solace" is gentle, pensive and meditative, almost classical. Zez Confrey's "Dizzy Fingers," on the other hand, is a frisky, full-throttle novelty rag which was published in 1923 and enjoyed great popularity. It is written in three sharps, not your usual ragtime key, which is certainly enough to account for its title.

Next up was Ruby Fradkin, a young lady who is one of our most popular performers. She played "Swipesy" and "The Cascades," two of the finest rags ever written. She played with her usual decisiveness and finesse.

Ragtime and jazz are certainly not twins, but at least they are kissing cousins. This was demonstrated by the Bob Mitchell Trio, making their first appearance at IHOP. With Bob on piano, Mike McClellan on clarinet, and Brian Tajiri on percussion, the threesome opened with "Canal Street Blues," a number by King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, recorded by them in 1923. For their second selection, the trio played "Seattle Hunch," a Jelly-Roll Morton composition of 1929. Morton was a transitional figure between ragtime and jazz. He asserted that he "invented jazz." He never made that claim for ragtime, however.

Gwen Girvins returned to entertain with piano and vocals on "It Had to Be You," and "April Showers." She was again accompanied by Phil Cannon (banjo/guitar) and James Drumhead (drum).

Ron Ross accompanied Alan "The Great Bramanovich" Breimer, who vocalized on "Streets of Laredo," "Toot, Toot Tootsie," and "Rock-a-by Your Baby with a Dixie Melody." He delivers in English and then in a language that I am not enough of a linguist to identify (Russian, Yiddish, Scat? I somehow suspect it's Scat.) The effect is quite humorous. Ron remained at the piano to solo on Joe Lamb's "Cleopatra Rag," a nice choice that we haven't heard for quite a while.

Composer/performer Fred Hoeptner had chosen two great classic rags as his contribution to the day's proceedings. He opened with Lamb's wonderful "Ragtime Nightingale," a piece which incorporates ideas from Chopin and Ethelbert Nevin. He followed up with James Scott's "Efficiency Rag," one of that composer's most brilliant but difficult essays.

At 87 years of age, Tom Handforth is our senior member. He played a sixteen-bar melody that seemed vaguely familiar to some of us old-timers. He then explained that this was the theme song played on the organ by Gaylord Carter before and after the nightly performances of one of the most popular radio shows in history: "Amos and Andy." Millions listened to their comedy program back in the 1930s during the great depression. (I remember that it came on from 7:00-7:15 p.m. on KFI.) For his second number Tom played Joplin's ever popular"The Cascades."

Our youngest member, 11-year-old Ruby Fradkin returned to play a charming waltz, "Il Sonrisa" (The Happy Smile"), and her very hip version of "St. Louis Blues."

After intermission Ron Ross debuted his clever new song, "When Ruby Plays the Blues," dedicated to Ruby Fradkin. It is an appealing blend of appropriate words and music, and we hope to hear it again next month.

Nancy Kleier returned to continue the adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy with their allergies. Since they need relief from their symptoms, Nancy played "Rx (Prescription) Rag," a contemporary piece by Galen Wilkes, who dedicated it to Rose Leaf Club regular, Darrell Woodruff, M.D. Thinking that maybe Andy might be inclined to self-medicate with a home remedy, Nancy played "Moonshine Rag," by Edward Hudson.

Shirley Case encored with "Red Peppers," by Imogine Giles.

Andrew Barrett encored with "The Lion Tamer Rag," by Mark Janza.

Bill Mitchell honored two requests, "Queen of Love," by Charles Hunter, and "Quality Rag," by James Scott.

Ron Ross concluded the day's festivities by honoring a request for his own song, "Good Thing Going."

It was an exciting meeting, with some great surprises and something for everyone.

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