Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

APRIL, 2004


Rose Leaf Ragtime Club March Meeting (3/28/2004)

Reported by Gary Rametta

Following a memorable February meeting that featured one of our largest gatherings ever and the brilliant piano stylings of Sonny Leyland, the Rose Leaf Club was back in action the final Sunday in March for a more intimate, though no less satisfying, musical celebration.

Among the guests this month was Theresa Ruiz, a correspondent from the San Gabriel Valley Weekly. Ms. Ruiz interviewed several performers and guests to get an all-around feel for what the club is all about. A photographer from the publication also stopped in and captured many images of the players in action. I imagine Hal Leavens will bring some copies to the next meeting...we may also post the article and photos on our web page.

Gary Rametta opened the proceedings with David Thomas Roberts' 1979 classic, "Roberto Clemente," a tender ragtime elegy inspired by the great Pittsburgh Pirate right fielder. It is also a forbear of the Terre Verde movement.

Next was Fred Hoeptner, performing on a superb ballad of his own, "Aura of Indigo." It features rich harmonies and paints a beautiful, impressionistic musical portrait.

Ron Ross greeted the attendees with two piano/ vocal numbers, both of his own composition. First was his 1999 ode to P.J. Schmidt and our club, "The Rose Leaf Way," then "Studio Sensation," a hilarious commentary on the magic that occurs when recording artists meet talented studio engineers. To wit:

As a singer, my friends tell me

I oughta take up playin' darts

But electron by electron

I go climbin' up the charts!

Ruby Fradkin then brought her artistry to bear on Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," playing in a gently swung manner, and featuring a nice improvisation on the repeat of the B section. She followed up with "Ruby's Old Boogie," a catchy solo off her CD Warmin' Up With Ragtime Ruby. She completed her set with a wandering improvisation that makes ample use of various blues scales and figures.

Another up-and-coming young master, Andrew Barrett, followed, treating the guests to a delightful rendition of Charles Johnson's "Dill Pickles" from 1906, then Jean Schwartz' inventive and pleasing "April Fool's Rag" from a few years later.

Stan Long came up with an original called "Haunting Accident Rag." With its driving momentum, full chords and blues notes, it seemed ideally suited to Stan's pianistic style. He followed up with a rendition of Jones' "It Had To Be You," then concluded with "Boogie Number Three," a keyboard workout appropriated from Johnny Hodges, one of the pianists at Disneyland.

Gary Rametta provided a brief interlude with Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin's graceful and lilting "Heliotrope Bouquet" from 1907.

Next was Phil Cannon, performing Joseph Lamb's landmark "American Beauty" rag on guitar/banjo with Gary providing accompaniment on piano. Phil continued with two more Lamb classics, "Sensation" and the posthumously published "Cottontail Rag," both with Andrew Barrett providing harmonic texturing and rhythmic support on piano.

Bob Pinsker, who hadn't played for us for a number of months, came up with notebooks in hand, informing us that May 21st was the centennial of Fats Waller's birth, and that he had been scheduled (unbeknownst to him!) to deliver a lecture on Waller at the Institute for Jazz Studies in Newark, NJ.

Bob then utterly satisfied us with some great Waller tunes. First was a piano/vocal called "Take It From Me, I'm Taken To You," then a difficult solo Bob transcribed off a Waller 1924 piano roll: "Do It, Mr. So and So." He concluded with Waller's famous "Ain't Misbehavin'," written in 1929 when Waller was in alimony jail.

We broke for intermission, during which Bill Coleman came up and laid out a very comfortable pulse with a selection of cakewalks, standards and pop tunes.

Gary opened the second-half of the meeting with David Thomas Roberts' meditative, longing and emotionally powerful "Through The Bottomlands."

Les Soper then came forward, first soloing on Lamb's "Cottontail Rag." Les beautifully interpreted Lamb's long, flowing melodic lines and lush nocturnal harmonies. Like so many of Lamb's compositions, "Cottontail" demonstrates his complete fluency and mastery of the ragtime form.

Next, Les delved into some piano/vocal with a delightful rendition of Zez Confrey's lighthearted "Stumblin'" from 1922. He followed up with Luckey Roberts' rousing "Junkman Rag," from 1913. To end his set, Les chose Glenn Jenks' "Elegiac Rag," an astonishingly lovely composition he performed gracefully and expressively.

Andrew returned to the keys and, noting that April 3rd marked the 110th Anniversary of Zez Confrey's birth, dove into Confrey's novelty classic "Kitten on the Keys." Then, by request, he soloed on Mark Janza's "The Lion Tamer Rag" from 1913. Andrew's playing on both was brilliant. In addition to successfully executing the demanding techniques presented by each, he displayed the confidence and extroverted quality in his playing that both pieces required. Way to go, Andrew!

Ron Ross returned for another short set, beginning with "Obadiah's Jumpsuit" off his CD Ragtime Renaissance. It has an attractive harmonic structure, mostly in the minor key and employing augmented triads as passing chords. Next, by request, Ron played and sang on his clever and humorous tale of love gone awry, "Good Thing Going."

Bob Pinsker returned to take us down the homestretch with some more Fats Waller. First was a rarely heard (or played) 1941 piano rag "Palm Garden," then a joyous piano/vocal rendition of "I'm Crazy About My Baby (And My Baby's Crazy 'Bout Me)." Bob continued with a stride player favorite, "Clothesline Ballet," then concluded his dazzling second set with a piano roll transcription of Waller and Benny Moten's "18th Street Strut" from 1926.

Thanks to all who attended and performed at the March meeting. Make sure to join us on Sunday, April 25th for an extended Rose Leaf Club gathering, featuring Bill Mitchell's band, The Albany Nightboat Ragtimers, leading us into a special appearance by ragtime artist, composer and musicologist Brad Kay. We look forward to seeing you at the IHOP!

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