Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club December Meeting (12/28/2003)

Reported by Bill Mitchell

Your reporter set things rolling shortly after 2:30 p.m. on the last Sunday of the year with a rollicking Percy Wenrich rag of 1907 called "The Smiler." Since no eggs or tomatoes were thrown, he ventured an encore, Ford Dabney's "Georgia Grind" from 1916. As Tichenor and Jasen state in their book, Rags and Ragtime, the "Grind" was usually a slow blues, but Dabney's rag is obviously not a blues, and sounds best in medium or even brisk tempo.

After welcoming the audience, your reporter introduced the emcee of the afternoon, Ron Ross, who in turn introduced Andrew Barrett, the accomplished teenager who is one of the club's most popular performers. Andrew opened his set with "That Teasin' Rag," by Joe Jordan. The C section of this number was appropriated by the Original Dixieland Jass Band as the trio section of their popular recording, "Original Dixieland One Step." They were subsequently required to add "Introducing That Teasin' Rag" to the record label. Andrew followed up with George L. Cobb's "Cracked Ice," published in 1918. Rounding out the set was "Blue Goose Rag" by the prolific Charles L. Johnson (writing under the name Raymond Birch).

The prolific Ron Ross played a couple of his popular originals: "Digital Rag" (fingers? numbers? recordings?) and "Mirella." The latter piece has an intriguing tango beat.

Stan Long was up next with a variety of material, beginning with the ever popular "Black and White Rag," by George Botsford. Wally Rose's 1941 recording of this 1908 number was influential in sparking a revival of interest in ragtime. Stan continued with a medley he called "My Ditties." Included are Beethoven's "Fur Elise," followed by part of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," and "It's a Small World After All." Quite a study in contrasts. Next came a rendition of "Haunting Rag" in the style of Trebor Tichenor. Stan concluded his set with a pop medley of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," "New York, New York," and "Someone to Watch over Me."

Frank Sano, who plays washboard and piano (but not at the same time), announced the upcoming San Clemente Dixieland Jazz by the Sea festival which will be held May 7 and 8. This year there will be a ragtime pianorama added to the program. No doubt some of the Rose Leaf Club members will participate. (For information call 949-492-1901 or 949-492-8964, or visit the website at ). Frank proceeded to play tuneful piano solos on "After You've Gone," and "Coney Island Washboard." He then called Bill Mitchell to join him in a duet on "The Old Piano Roll Blues."

Ron Ross led a short discussion of possibilities for the club, including such items as paying special guest performers, raising the door donations for guests and lowering them for members (newsletter subscribers), attracting new members, etc. These are areas for future action. Resuming the music, Ron played two more of his originals: "Sunday Serendipity" and "Acrosonic Rag," a recent composition named after his piano.

Robbie Gennet played two of his own creations. "Let Frodo Rest" was a frisky romp inspired by Lord of the Rings. "Brownie's Boogie" featured a walking bass line. Robbie's unique style is difficult to describe, but is lively and derives from many sources, of which ragtime is one.

Fred Hoeptner, the club treasurer, played three ragtime treasures for us. "One for Amelia' was written by Max Morath to honor the widow of Joseph F. Lamb. "Aura of Indigo" is a much-admired Hoeptner original. "Grace and Beauty" is arguably James Scott's masterpiece, one of the finest things in all ragtime literature.

Nancy Kleier, the Little Old Ragtime Lady from Pasadena as she calls herself, had the Tournament of Roses in mind when she planned her set, which included James Scott's "Princess Rag," Lamb's "American Beauty," and Tom Brier's "Rose Blossoms."

Our banjo virtuoso, Phil Cannon, had a special holiday treat for us when he played "Waltz of the Flowers" from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite." But just to show us that he had not abandoned ragtime, he called Andrew Barrett up to the piano to accompany him on Lamb's great "Top Liner Rag."

Andrew concluded the day's program with two impressive performances. "Hot Cinders" is a tricky novelty number that Joe Lamb wrote in the 1920s. It was published posthumously in 1964 in a folio of some of Lamb's previously unpublished rags. Mark Janza's "The Lion Tamer Rag" (1913) is a spectacular barn-burner, and Andrew brought down the house with his masterful, spirited rendition of it.

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