Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

JANUARY, 2003

NUMBER 81

Rose Leaf Ragtime Club December Meeting (12/29/2002)

Reported by Bill Mitchell


The last meeting of the year got underway with Ron Ross, emcee of the day, warming up the Yamaha with a Joseph F. Lamb composition, "Cleopatra Rag." Ron followed up with James Scott's brilliant "Ragtime Oriole."

We had missed Nancy Kleier at recent meetings, so it was great to see her and hear her again. Nancy, the self-characterized "little old rag lady from Pasadena," opened with "Toboggan Rag," which is a good mid-winter title, to be sure. With Pasadena's "Tournament of Roses" coming up shortly, Nancy gave it a nod by playing "Rose Blossoms," a 1990 rag by the prolific Tom Brier. The next number might have seemed something of an anomaly; it was a Sousa march of 1924 called "Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company," but it fit the year's end theme by dint of including "Auld Lang Syne."

Phil Cannon has become a Rose Leaf Club favorite for his meticulous transcriptions of piano rags for banjo-guitar. He delighted the audience with Joplin's "Peacherine Rag" and Lamb's "Reindeer Rag."

Bill Mitchell opened his set with "The Strenuous Life," a somewhat march-like Joplin rag of 1902. He then played "Heliotrope Bouquet," the Joplin collaboration with Louis Chauvin that Joplin's publisher, John Stark, so aptly characterized as "The audible poetry of motion." Bill concluded his set with one of his favorite James Scott pieces, "Evergreen Rag."

Ron Ross played his popular original, "Digital Rag," accompanied by Phil Cannon on banjo-guitar.

Andrew Barrett introduced us to "Rudolph, the Ragtime Reindeer," (aka "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer," a Johnny Marks hit from 1949). Andy then played an early Stark publication, "African Pas," by Maurice Kirwin. This is an interesting rag that I don't recall hearing before at our meetings.

Les Soper opened his set with a number cryptically titled "The Wrong Rag," by the contemporary Maine composer, Glen Jenks. He continued with a couple of Joplin's most challenging rags, "Fig Leaf" and "Rose Leaf." They rank among the composer's very best efforts.

Ron Ross played and sang his own "Studio Sensation." His vocal included a little scat singing.

After a break for stretching and socializing the meeting resumed with another Ron Ross original, "Joplinesque, A Gringo tango."

Nancy Kleier returned for a second set of timely tunes. She opened with Wenrich's "Ragtime Chimes" and continued with "Frigid Frolics," a rare rag of 1905 by one Alvin Marx. Her concluding number, she said, would be apropos for the Rose Parade: "Floating Along." This graceful piece was by Edward Buffington.

The return of Les Soper featured Galen Wilkes' gentle "Whippoorwill Hollow." Les then played another favorite of his, "Apple Sass," a Harry Belding composition of 1914. He rounded out the set with the Lamb classic, "Ragtime Nightingale."

With Les Soper accompanying him on his mini-washboard, Bill Mitchell played "Hot Chocolate," a better-than-average Tin Pan Alley rag by Franklin and Lange. The title of his next number revealed what Santa would have slung on his back for all good lovers of syncopation: namely, "A Bag of Rags." His last number was one that he has played over the years almost as much as "Maple Leaf Rag." That would be Jelly Roll Morton's "The Pearls." Like "Maple Leaf," it is a piece that one never tires of playing.

Andrew Barrett returned with a barn-burner from 1913 called "Lion Tamer Rag," by Mark Janza. He concluded with Charlie Straight's "Blue Grass Rag" of 1918.

An encore set by Phil Cannon included "Ragtime Oriole" and "Excelsior Rag," by Joseph F. Lamb. The piano score of the latter is very demanding, but true to form, Phil had adapted it smoothly for his banjo-guitar. To wind up the afternoon's festivities, Phil invited Andrew Barrett back for a duet on "Crazy Bone Rag," by Charles L. Johnson.

This was a very satisfying meeting. We had a nice mix of material that included the familiar and the obscure. The performances reflected preparation. The attendance was markedly up from the last two meetings, and the attendees were attentive and responsive, saving their conversation for intermission, a deferral which is always appreciated by listeners who are trying to focus on the music.


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