Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

NOVEMBER, 2002

NUMBER 79

Rose Leaf Ragtime Club October Meeting (10/27/2002)

Reported by Gary Rametta


With an extra hour of sleep and the added enthusiasm of anticipating the Anaheim Angels' first World Series championship in Major League Baseball, the members of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club were energized and then some for our October meeting. The turnout was somewhat lighter than usual, but that didn't diminish the amount of fine musicianship and camaraderie that took place.

Ron Ross kicked off the meeting with two originals from his "Ragtime Renaissance" CD, "Obadiah's Jumpsuit" (I love that title) and "Digital Rag." Both are excellent compositions, intricately crafted, fun to listen to, and always well-played. Incidentally, Ron sent an e-mail in early November noting that this month marks the one-year anniversary of the release of his CD. If you haven't already grabbed it, you should. Ron really captures the joviality and rhythm of the music. If you're an Internet user, you can hear extracts from the CD at a site called HYPERLINK "http://www.cdbaby.com" www.cdbaby.com. This website specializes in promoting the works of independent musicians. By the way, you'll also find Ruby Fradkin's CD on the site as well.

Bill Mitchell next contributed some timeless grooves, starting with Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Blues," a.k.a. "New Orleans Joys." A seminal piece of music combining blues, a habanera beat (the "Spanish tinge," as Jelly Roll referred to it) and wonderful improvisation, it was Jelly Roll's first composition, written before 1905. Next, Bill took us to close to the end of the ragtime era with Artie Matthews' "Pastime Rag #5." That piece also makes use of a Latin-based rhythm, and sounds to me like it could have served as inspiration for David Guion's famous "Texas Fox Trot."

Gary Rametta came up next, starting his set with Fred Hoeptner's "Dalliance, A Ragtime Frolic." Afterward, he segued into a staple of classic ragtime, James Scott's "Grace and Beauty." To round out the set, he gave "Scott Joplin's New Rag" a vigorous essay.

Next, club members joined in song to wish Hal & Liz Leavens' daughter Susie a happy birthday.

Phil Cannon strapped on his six-string guitar/banjo and proceeded to delve into some Eubie Blake. First, he soloed on the fox-trot-ish "Fizz Water," an exceedingly tough piece at which he acquitted himself marvelously. He then invited Yuko Shimazaki and Bill Mitchell to join him for a guitar/banjo duo piano rendition of Blake's great "Chevy Chase." The trio's performance was outstanding.

Aaron Ballard, a newcomer to the club, strummed his six-string acoustic guitar and regaled us with what I believe was Stephen Sondheim's charming number "Sunday," from the musical "Sunday in the Park With George." Next was "The Bird and The Bee," a late-1950's Harry Belafonte number, I believe. Aaron's strumming and finger work was first rate, and his song interpretations were light, bouncy and pleasing.

Up next to enchant us with her playing was Yuko Shimazaki. Yuko chose one of her favorite Argentinean tangos from around 1900, "Velada Criolla," by a composer named Domingo Perez. This is an elegant, thoughtful and emotional piece that Yuko performed marvelously on.

Next was Andrew Barrett, who had his most recent folio collection under his arm, "Ragtime Rarities," a gem of a collection compiled by Trebor Tichenor and published by Dover. Andrew opened his set with "Sweet Pickles," a seldom-played rag composed by Theron Bennett (supposed writer of "St. Louis Tickle," and one-time piano instructor to club member Prentiss Bacon). Continuing, Andrew introduced the work of Detroit ragtimer Harry P. Guy, performing his exquisite rag waltz "Echoes from the Snowball Club." It was, to put it simply, the best performance of any piece yet by Andrew, and that's saying a lot.

Fearless Ruby Fradkin was asked next to play and, as usual, she did that and more. First, she gave us a totally unique, swinging-eighths version of the first two sections of Joplin's "Cascades." I'd never before heard it played like that and was very intrigued. After concluding the B section, she segued into a toe-tapping blues groove of her own making, out of which she transitioned to the first three sections of Joplin's "Fig Leaf" rag, one of his undisputed classics. This was the first time Ruby played the piece and I think most of us were quite stunned at her effort. It was really, really special. Lastly was what's becoming her theme song of sorts, the Art Mooney standard "Baby Face."

Following Andrew and Ruby's inspiring performances, the club decided it was an ideal moment at which we could honor the artistry, commitment and potential of each of these very promising young players. By unanimous vote, the members offered to grant a scholarship of $250 to each. That figure was immediately increased to $300 each, thanks to a generous added pledge of $100 by longtime member Alan Breimer.

After congratulations to Andrew and Ruby, as well as comments from Andrew's mother and Ruby's father, we continued with some more music. Ron and Phil gave us three very nice piano/guitar-banjo duos of ragtime classics from the Big Three: James Scott's "Ragtime Oriole," Joseph Lamb's "Cleopatra Rag," and Scott Joplin's "Wall Street Rag."

Bill Coleman then came up to the Gulbrandsen and took us through the break with a host of standards and popular tunes from the teens, twenties and thirties. Gary Rametta opened the second half of the program with P.J. Schmidt's lovely composition "French Vanilla." Bill Mitchell followed, noting that he didn't know how his next number, "Dill Pickles" by Charles Johnson, would taste. We agreed about the culinary questionability but not the rousing delivery of the tune, courtesy of Mr. Mitchell. Bill then went on to play James Scott's "Pegasus Rag."

Making his second appearance at the club was piano pro Robbie Gennet. Although he plays professionally in other idioms, like funk, rock and progressive, Robbie still enjoys ragtime. He gave us two tunes, the first being a sort of freestyle improvisation with two sections, a minor blues and boogie. He then moved to a highly energetic, a diatonic-sounding construction that mixed an arpeggiated first section with a highly syncopated, heavy chorded second section. Robbie's chops are indeed impressive and his performance well-received by the members.

Ruby and Bill Mitchell then played duo pianos on the Joplin/Marshall classic "Swipsey Cakewalk." Following that, Ruby soloed on her own composition, "Ruby's Boogie."

For his second set, Andrew Barrett played "Phantom Rag," a composition from 1911 from Cleveland, OH tin-pan alley writers Al Brown and Sol Violinsky. He followed up with the Joplin/Scott Hayden collaboration "Kismet Rag," an excellent work from 1913.

Fred Hoeptner then came on to perform his own "Aura of Indigo," an eloquent, restrained and very beautiful composition. Fred says he's been working on it for 10 years, but it certainly sounded more than complete to me.

To close out the October meeting, Gary, Bill and Phil combined on Joplin's "Easy Winners," reportedly his favorite rag, and "Sunflower Slow Drag." Gary and Bill put the finishing touches on the meeting with Frank French's "Belle of Louisville."


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