Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

JULY, 2003

NUMBER 87

Rose Leaf Ragtime Club June Meeting (6/29/2003)

Reported by Gary Rametta


A slightly smaller crowd than usual gathered at the Pasadena International House of Pancakes for our monthly meeting on Sunday, June 29th. Of course, that didn't stop the 35 or so who attended from enjoying three-plus solid hours of the kind of entertainment that can only be found at the Rose Leaf Club.

It was a treat to hear Yuko Shimazaki once again at the keyboard. As the guests arrived and got comfortable, Yuko rolled out the ragtime red carpet with Joplin's "The Nonpareil," (1907), one of his lovely epics with grand emotional sweep. Next, Yuko was joined by guitar/banjoist Phil Cannon on Mr. Joplin's Latin-flavored ragtime serenade, "Solace." In addition to displaying her excellent technique, Yuko demonstrated her ability to convey the stories of these compositions in a very special and personal way.

With the crowd definitely in the mood, Gary Rametta and Bill Mitchell played duo pianos on two more Joplin compositions. First was his first rag "Original Rags"—published in 1899 and arranged by Charles Daniels. It's more or less a threading of five ragtime themes together, but gives a very clear idea of the creativity and uniqueness that was to follow. Next was "Something Doing," one of the finest of all of Joplin's collaborations, this one with his student Scott Hayden.

Following Gary and Bill was Doug Haise, a one-time local resident but now an Indianan. Doug was on a trip out west and was able to stop by and play for us. He chose three selections from a recent program of his entitled "Fine Feathered Ragtime." The pieces, all of which were new to me, centered on bird themes, starting with George Botsford's "Old Crow Rag" from 1907, then Harry Austin Tierney's "Black Canary Rag" from 1911, and "Pigeon Walk," written by James V. Monaco in 1914 at the height of the foxtrot craze. Since Doug's first performance for us three or four years ago (maybe even longer than that), his touch, tempo, technique and artistry have advanced considerably, as has his repertoire. The fact that he maintains a connection with a local ragtime club like ours is not lost on the members. Doug has a solid fan base at the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club!

Bill Mitchell continued with more treasures from the ragtime era. First was a lesser-known James Scott piece, "The Suffragette," a lovely waltz from 1914. I was especially enchanted by its pretty, pensive trio. Next was Abe Olman's "Honeymoon Rag" from 1908, followed by Artie Matthews' "Pastime Rag No. 5," a moody piece that makes extensive use of a habanera rhythm and recalls echoes of David Guion's "Texas Fox Trot."

Gary Rametta followed with solos from two contemporary ragtime composers, first Trebor Tichenor's "Show Me Rag (A Missouri Defiance)," then David Thomas Roberts' "Through the Bottomlands." Though both could be considered folk rags, they have entirely different spirits. "Show Me" has a kind of country-blues feel and moves forward with power, while "Bottomlands" is a lyrical, longing and reflective musical journey. Gary finished off his solo set with Joplin's upbeat "Sugar Cane" rag from 1908.

Next was Phil Cannon, playing guitar/banjo on "At an Ole Virginia Wedding," a characteristic march written by Maurice Steinberg in 1899. For his next piece, he called on Andrew Barrett to accompany him on piano in a revisit of Joplin's "The Nonpareil." For a coup de grace and a fitting finale, Phil did some terrific picking on Joplin's intricate "Rose Leaf Rag".

Les Soper then gave us a marvelous performance of Hal Isbitz' exquisite "Opalescence." He shared with us his experience first hearing when Mr. Isbitz brought the piece to a meeting of the Maple Leaf Club in 1990. Back then, Hal was little known in the ragtime community. After "Opalescence" though, the secret about him was out and he could no longer fly under the radar. For his second solo, Les revisited Joplin's "Solace." He concluded with one of Joseph Lamb's great Stark-published rags, "Patricia." It displays the utter inventiveness and pianistic poetry of Lamb's ragtime writing.

Ron Ross began with a couple of announcements—first his recent appearance at the Ragtime corner of the annual Sacramento Jazz Jubilee; second, the upcoming Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival in California's gold country from August 8-10. He then played two favorites off his Ragtime Renaissance CD, "Digital Rag" and the always crowd-pleasing piano/vocal number "Studio Sensation." Ron finished off his set with another, more recent piano/vocal number, "When Ruby Plays the Blues." It is, of course, an ode of admiration and appreciation to young Miss Ruby Fradkin.

Continuing with our program, Jim Lutz returned to the club after a lengthy hiatus. He performed Joplin's "Cleopha," a march with four interrelated themes, and "Lily Queen," a bright rag co-written by Joplin and Arthur Marshall. It has a charming melody and a steady buildup of energy toward the fourth section climax. Since he last played for us, Jim showed significant improvement in his touch, phrasing and dynamics. It's clear he enjoys playing ragtime, and that kind of enthusiasm is infectious. Welcome back, Jim!

Back up for some solos was Andrew Barrett. His first selection was "Scott Joplin's New Rag," a bold and avant-garde composition from 1912. Andrew employed a walking bass line throughout the piece. Next was "Goldenrod Rag," a well-known contemporary piece by Omaha, Nebraska composer Gilbert Lieberknecht, a.k.a. "Gil Lieby." Andrew completed a well-played set with Joseph Lamb's sentimental and powerful "Top Liner Rag," widely considered among the pinnacles of all ragtime compositions.

During a short intermission that followed, Bill Coleman entertained the meeting-goers with a medley of standards and popular tunes spanning the last 100 years or so.

Stan Long kick-started the last-half of the meeting with Joplin's "The Entertainer," rearranging it slightly (and successfully) to suit his playing style. He followed up with "Borneo Rag," a 1911 piece that publisher and writer Charles Daniels penned under the pseudonym of Neil Moret. Subtitled "An Oriental Pastime," it aimed to capture some of the exotic Asian and east-Indian flavor that was in vogue at that time. Stan finished off with a patriotic medley in honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday. It included "Stars and Stripes," "Anchors Aweigh," "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "America the Beautiful." Stan did a wonderful job on the medley, and made us all feel proud to be Americans!

Fred Hoeptner brought us down the homestretch with James Scott's "Evergreen Rag," a 1915 piece that's almost impossible not to tap one's feet along with. Next was David Guion's moody "Texas Fox Trot" from 1915, a beautiful composition that requires commanding technique to play. With Gary Rametta accompanying on second piano, Fred finished up with Max Morath's "One for Amelia," an elegant and important contemporary rag dedicated to Joseph Lamb's wife. Gary continued on with "Ragtime Reverie," an unpublished Lamb rag discovered posthumously in one of his sketchbooks and copyrighted by Lamb's daughter.

By request, Les Soper gave us a brilliant rendition of Joplin's great "Pine Apple Rag" to end the show and send everyone out with a spark in their step. Expect more of the same this month, Sunday July 27th at 2:30 p.m.!


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