Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club September Meeting (9/28/2003)

Reported by Gary Rametta

As I reflect on our September meeting, it comes to my mind that the banquet room in the back of the Pasadena IHOP has got to be one of the most ideal places to spend a few hours reveling in the last remaining days of another lazy, hazy and crazy summer. As autumn beckons, we come together to share the joys of life in a way that only ragtime music can provide.

What better way to start the dreamy reminiscences that a few classic rags? Gary Rametta and Phil Cannon joined on piano and banjo in "Heliotrope Bouquet," "Peacherine" and "Excelsior," by Louis Chauvin, Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb, respectively. Next, Gary soloed on "Southern Charms," a gem written by the talented novelty-era pianist/composer Rube Bloom. He followed up with Scott Joplin's "Sugar Cane."

Ron Ross debuted an original, "Impressions," another of his sweet and sensitive habaneras. Next, he noted that the September meeting marked the eighth anniversary of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club. To celebrate the occasion, he brought a large sheet cake for everyone to enjoy. Before we dove into the cake, Ron passed out the lead sheet to "The Rose Leaf Way," which he composed four years ago and presented to Phil Schmidt. With Gary on piano and Ron on vocals, the assembled guests delivered a rousing sing-along rendition that really brightened the spirits of all those present. By request, Ron completed his set with another solo, this time his lovely original "Mirella."

Phil Cannon next soloed on Jean Schwartz' "Whitewash Man," which he performed flawlessly, and on James Scott's romantic "Ragtime Betty."

Making his second appearance at the club was classically-trained Dhiren Panniker. He began by remarking how tough it was for ragtime music to become socially accepted in Europe and especially among the European classical community in the early 1900s. However, he noted, the unique pulse and flavor of the music was a decided influence on some of the more daring, forward-thinking composers, like Frenchman Claude Debussy. Dhiren gave us two interesting and well-played examples of how Debussy injected ragtime into his music, first "Le Petit Negre," then the more well-known "Golliwog's Cakewalk," from the composer's Children's Corner suite.

Our next performer was Shirley Case from Laguna Beach, who invited everyone to come and see her (and many other performers) at the upcoming Orange County Ragfest (see review below). Her focus this year would be on the music of Mr. Eubie Blake. Accordingly, she delighted our ears with three great Eubie tunes: "Baltimore Todolo," "Chevy Chase," and "Tricky Fingers."

Next on the Rose Leaf bill was bandleader/pianist Frank Sano, who joked that he was the house pianist at the "Barstow Home for the Silly and Bewildered." Ah, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!

To everyone's satisfaction, Frank delivered a smooth and heaping helping of "saloon music," with solos on "Toot, Toot, Tootsie," "Hello Ma Baby," "Darktown Strutter's Ball," and "Dill Pickles."

Following Frank was another Orange County Ragfest performer, our talented regular Andrew Barrett. Andrew is burning through the ragtime catalog at an enthusiastic pace. This month, he gave us Harry Belding's 1913 hit "Good Gravy Rag," and Charles L. Johnson's "Blue Goose Rag" from 1916. Like Ragtime Ruby Fradkin, Andrew is doing exceedingly well and making rapid progress. If you haven't heard him yet, you should make it to one of our meetings. It will be a treat!

We moved to a brief intermission, during which Bill Coleman soloed on a swathe of excellent standards and popular tunes. We also cut the cake (after Ruby blew out the candle!) and passed around generous portions.

Ruby kicked off the last half of the show with an extended, untitled boogie, showcasing her impeccable left-hand timing, plethora of right-hand blues licks and improvisational exploration. Next, she journeyed into more familiar territory with Joplin's bittersweet "Weeping Willow" from 1903. Before handing over the mike to Les Soper, she invited everyone to attend a concert she'd be having at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido on October 1st.

Les contributed two brilliantly played classics, Joplin's "Fig Leaf Rag" and Joseph Lamb's "Bohemia." His rendition of "Bohemia" was one of the best I've ever heard. What a joy to have heard it live, and from six feet away! To finish up, Les and Shirley played duo pianos on Imogene Gillis' 1907 two-step, "Red Peppers." Their delivery was knee slapping and barn burnin'.

Gary was smitten by the ragtime bug and had to add another rag to the mix, this time Joseph Lamb's posthumously published "Ragtime Reverie." Next, Phil strapped on his banjo and explained how he was motivated to learn and perform Joplin's "The Great Crush Collision March" after hearing Giovanni De Chiaro play it for us last month. As usual, his musicianship came through in flying colors, capturing and recreating all the nuances, tempo and dynamic changes of the piece. Remarkable.

Andrew came back up and duetted with Phil on Joseph Lamb's "Sensation." Next, Ron delivered a piano/vocal of another one of his humorous originals, "Ode to the Pickle," which extols the virtues of kosher dills. He followed up with "Sutter Creek Rag," an homage to the increasingly popular Gold Coast festival.

Dhiren Panniker returned to the keys with two improvisations, first "Blues for Count," an appreciation to Count Basie, then an original though unstructured rag, "Nocturnal Rag." Andrew followed Dhiren with Charles Straight's "Blue Grass Rag," and Ruby took over with an original that sounded like a tune for a lyric, which country music-like fills and figures.

Fred Hoeptner capped off a thoroughly enjoyable meeting with terrific playing on James Scott's "Grace and Beauty" and Adaline Shepard's "Pickles and Peppers."

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