Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

JUNE, 2003

NUMBER 86

Rose Leaf Ragtime Club May Meeting (5/25/2003)

Reported by Karen Stone & Fred Hoeptner


The May meeting held true to recent form, with 55 people in attendance at its peak, several performers and even a surprise or two. Thanks to Karen Stone and Fred Hoeptner for their invaluable contributions to the following report. --Gary Rametta

Gary Rametta started the meeting off with a lively version of Joseph Lamb's "Excelsior Rag," followed by David Thomas Roberts' "Through the Bottomlands." It was sweetly rendered, yet with character and a wistful quality. . .very easy listening indeed!

Fred Hoeptner performed James Scott's "Evergreen Rag," which he made dynamically interesting. "Dalliance, A Ragtime Frolic," was his next offering--a playful rag with great optimism that should be heard more often.

For a real change of pace, Stan Long played Charles N. Daniels' "Indian Summer," full of rhythmic grandeur and a surprise ending a la Stan. "Goldenrod Rag" by Gil Lieby followed. It is hauntingly reflective and has exquisite chords that surround one with a warm glow. The ending is marked by a jig-like rhythm. Next, Stan enjoyed playing for us Scott Joplin's great "Magnetic Rag."

Phil Cannon honored us with his banjo playing, a nice contrast from the piano. His first two selections were James Scott's "Grace and Beauty" and "Ragtime Oriole." "Grace and Beauty" had that old-time sound of the turn-of-the-century, as it must have given the people relaxing on their porch swings on a lazy summer's day. How about a Mint Julep? "Ragtime Oriole" just added to that summertime feeling. Phil seems very comfortable and relaxed with his audience and enjoys sharing his music. His next piece was a terrific treat: "On the Trail," the best-known of the five movements of Ferde Grof?'s "Grand Canyon Suite." It has a modern feel and really conveys hiking a few steps, then stopping to point out something amazing along the trail. It kept going in that vein with an abrupt ending, which probably meant there was a glorious abyss to view next!

Les Soper of Simi Valley, a regular at these meetings, now into playing washboard as well as piano, started with Joplin's "Weeping Willow." Les is one of the few players who makes reading his music as delightful as if he had memorized it. You would not mind hearing him practicing, as he reads so well. Playing straight, he nevertheless observes all the dynamics, so it's a very pleasant listening experience. "Grace and Beauty" followed, played by Les with great confidence and the joy of sharing its tuneful sections with stronger statements, followed by joyful and delicate echoes of the same. The audience enjoyed it!

For a change of pace, Les played Jack Rummel's 1993 "Lone Jack to Knob Noster." Jack has shared that it represents his ride between these two towns in Missouri, and there is definitely a feeling of being on the road and not in much of a hurry, but enjoying every moment of that solitary trip. Gary Rametta pointed out its bluesy quality and that many in the ragtime community enjoy playing it.

Ruby Fradkin got her set going with "Maple Leaf Rag," with a swing styling and a bouncy approach. She didn't miss a beat or a note in spite of recently playing a digital keyboard. She added a few interesting embellishments to several measures, and the ending was a hit. She followed this with an original composition as yet unnamed. It had a haunting blues feel, which she played with confidence. It was beautiful and the audience appreciated it. For a more upbeat pace, a swinging "Swipesy" followed. I bet Joplin would love to have sat and listened to Ruby, no doubt quite interested in her future playing of his music and her joy in the little additions she makes. Ruby closed by mentioning her CD, available on her web site, www.ragtimeruby.com. She also announced some of her upcoming gigs. Check out her web page for further information.

Nancy Kleier returned from hip surgery and recuperation, and as she typically does, chose pieces that reflect a th;eme--in this case, her recent medical journey. She started with George Cobb's 1910 "Aggravation Rag," which portrayed her pre-surgery battle. On the mend now, she continued with Charles L. Johnson's "Cum-Bac Rag." With her prognosis looking quite good indeed, Nancy's plan is to "Keep a Shuffling," a 1905 piece by Pauline Story. It had a bright yet determined quality. As does Nancy! We wish her well!

Jeff Stone, host of "The Ragtime Show" heard Sundays at 8:00 p.m. on KSBR, 88.5 FM, assumed the emcee duties during the second half. Tenor banjoist Dick Serocki, attending his first Rose Leaf session (but I sincerely hope not his last), soloed on "King Chanticleer," "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and "September In The Rain."

Modern pianist Robbie Gennet impressed us with "New Orleans," a haunting boogie-woogie, followed by a bluesy statement, all in a minor key. It would make a fine piece to be played around Halloween, so hope he'll reprise it at the October meeting. Following was "Let Go of My Pancakes, Mortimer" a complex and artful boogie, full of excitement. As Jeff Stone said, "Robbie has a lot to say musically!"

Les Soper demonstrated his usual superior performing skills on "Levee Revels" by W.C. O'Hare and "Red Peppers" by Imogene Giles, both played in a deliberate, relaxed style. Les made the most of introducing "Red Peppers" by emphasizing the interesting phrases in each hand. It would be enjoyable to hear this piece more often and seems quite authentic to the time it was written.

Next up was Ruby Fradkin, who opened with what she described as "part of an unfinished original," a bluesy tune with many slurs and slides. She concluded the piece with a complex but lovely finish! She followed with another original, this one apparently finished, named "Walkin' the Beat" featuring a boogie base and an unusual harmonic structure. Ruby memorized both pieces and impressed everyone with the ease with which she played.

Stan Long followed with "The Theme from the Bridge on the River Kwai," more commonly known as "Colonel Bogey March." He next treated us to a piece he created using "chopsticks" as the glue holding the various parts together. It had a boogie-woogie beginning and end, with a sweet interlude in the middle.

Guitar-banjoist Phil Cannon treated us to two Joe Lamb rags, "Cottontail" from Lamb's later period and "Top Liner" from the ragtime era. Phil's remarkable arrangements included all of the composer's original harmonic nuances.

Nancy Kleier's second set began with "Cakewalk in the Sky," written by Ben Harney in 1899. This rhythmic piece has descending bell-like arpeggios, which she played with a determination that pleased the audience. As a surprise for her husband Ed, who was celebrating his birthday that day, she played Cecil Macklin's 1911 "Too Much Mustard!"

Fred Hoeptner closed another successful meeting with James Scott's great 1921 "Victory Rag."


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