Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club January Meeting (1/25/2004)

Reported by Bill Mitchell

The emcee of the day, Ron Ross, began the afternoon's syncopation with two James Scott pieces, "Frog Legs Rag" and "Ragtime Oriole." The former, a brilliant and lively number published by John Stark in 1906, was Scott's first big hit, and set the pace for a string of his masterpieces. James Scott's popularity with Rose Leaf Club performers was evidenced by the fact that by the end of the meeting six of his rags had been played.

Your reporter had chosen to open his set with Scott's "Sunburst Rag," published three years after "Frog Legs." A Jelly Roll Morton number, "New Orleans Joys" (sometimes called "New Orleans Blues"), injected what Jelly called "the Spanish tinge" into the proceedings. "Pride of the Smoky Row, a 1911 rag by an obscure Hammond, Indiana composed named C. W. Wilcockson, was next. Concluding the set was Joseph F. Lamb's melodic "Patricia Rag" from the year 1916.

Ron returned to the piano to play and sing a couple of his own compositions: "Studio Sensation," a humorous number, and "When Ruby Plays the Blues," a piece dedicated to our youngest member, Ruby Fradkin. When Ron plays and sings, he is charmingly reminiscent of Hoagy Carmichael, who also played and sang his own stuff.

It was then Fred Hoeptner's turn to play. He contributed two more James Scott pieces: "Evergreen Rag" (1915) and "Victory Rag" (1921). The latter was one of the last published pieces of the classic ragtime era, as by 1921 jazz had largely superceded ragtime. Between the Scott rags Fred sandwiched in a lovely number of his own composition, "Dalliance."

By this time Ruby Fradkin had arrived, and was invited to play. She began with a little blues warm-up, working her way into a unique arrangement of "Maple Leaf Rag" (taken at an admirably moderate tempo with some bluesy interpolations). For her second number she played "Ruby's Boogie," using a walking bass. She closed her set with Joplin's "Weeping Willow" performed in her unmistakable style.

Phil Cannon observed that a century ago Scott Joplin wrote four rags in the year 1904. Phil had been working out arrangements of them for his banjo-guitar, and proceeded to play them: "The Chrysanthemum," "The Favorite," "The Sycamore," and "The Cascades." It was probably the first time that "The Favorite" had been played at a Rose Leaf Club meeting. For "The Cascades" he invited Bill Mitchell to accompany him, and the invitation was accepted.

One of our more recent musician members, San Clemente's Frank Sano, played a solo version of the Shelton Brooks standard "Some of These Days," and then called on Phil and Bill to join him in a raggy medley of 1920s pop songs "Ain't She Sweet,' "Five Foot Two," and Yes Sir, That's My Baby." Frank concluded his set with a duet with Bill on "Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)."

We then had an intermission of a few minutes to visit and stretch our legs, while Bill Coleman provided some background piano for our enjoyment, playing an assortment of tunes that included "At a Georgia Camp Meeting," "I'll Always Be in Love with You," "All I Do Is Dream of You," "Apple Blossom Time," "Twilight Time," "Beautiful Ohio," and "Samba de Orfeu."

Les Soper arrived from Simi Valley in time to kick off the second half with Joseph Lamb's "Bohemia" (1919). He brought us into the contemporary ragtime scene with Hal Isbitz's "Opalescence," a rag which intrigued him when he heard the composer play it at a Maple Leaf Club meeting a few years back. Another contemporary Les admires greatly is Maine's Glen Jenks, whose "The Wrong Rag" and "Elegiac Rag" wrapped up his set.

Robbie Gennet of Highland Park said he had been listening to jazz pianist Thelonious Monk recently, and had come up with something called "The Monk Rag" to honor him. When Robbie played it, you could hear Monk's influence. He followed up with two more Gennet originals, "The Brownie Rag" and "New Orleans by Nine." (The latter was actually a song, redolent of the Crescent City, with the composer accompanying himself.)

Ruby returned to the eighty-eight for a meditative, bluesy version of "Over the Rainbow," and then played another of her original boogies. Robbie and Ruby then improvised an untitled duet around a simple chord sequence. Let's call it "The Robbie-Ruby Ramble."

Returning to close the meeting was Les Soper, with Scott's "The Ragtime Betty" and Joplin's "The Cascades," played with his usual spirited precision and rhythm.

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