Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

AUGUST, 2004


Rose Leaf Ragtime Club July Meeting (7/25/2004)

Reported by Bill Mitchell

Attendance was up at the July meeting at the Pasadena IHOP, where 45 performers and guests enjoyed a feast of ragtime along with their meals and/or beverages. For over three hours syncopation reigned in various forms.

Ron Ross, emcee for the afternoon, warmed up the piano with Joe Lamb's "Patricia Rag," which the composer considered one of his three best. (The other two: "Top Liner" and "American Beauty.") Ron, a composer himself, played his comparatively recent "Sutter Creek Rag," an impressive number inspired by the Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival.

Andrew Barrett began his first set with the ever popular "Dill Pickles," by Charles L. Johnson. He continued with "Impromptu," the first of a set of "Three Little Oddities" by novelty rag composer Zez Confrey. Andrew commented that these pieces from 1923 are difficult to play because they do not fall easily under the fingers as most of Confrey's pieces do. To my ear the "Three Little Oddities" somewhat presage the piano numbers by Bix Beiderbecke ("In a Mist," etc.), which were published at the end of the 1920s. Both Zez and Bix were experimenting with "modern" chords and progressions. Returning to classic ragtime, Andrew played Joplin's "Pine Apple Rag," one of the finest ever written.

Bill Mitchell opened his set with Percy Wenrich's delectable "Peaches and Cream," one of the better 1905 rags. "Twinkles," a 1909 folk rag by Chas. E. Gish, was next on the program. I don't recall either of these having been played at a meeting before. George Botsford's "Grizzly Bear Rag" completed the set.

Phil Cannon, the club's banjo-uke wizard, led an ad hoc group (with banjoist Howard Steffen and pianists Frank Sano and Bill Mitchell) through three old favorites: "The Darktown Strutters' Ball," "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," and "Margie."

Steve Hurst told us about Shelton Brooks and some of the well-known numbers he had written, and then played his "Walkin' the Dog," a ragtime/Dixieland tune of 1916.

We've missed Nancy Kleier at recent meetings, and so it was delightful to have her back with us. For her set she did some cherry picking, leading off with "Cherry," by L'Albert (AKA Charles N. Daniels/ Neil Moret, etc.). She continued with "Wild Cherries," by Ted Snyder. She invited Phil Cannon to accompany her on this one. Having run out of cherry rags, she played one called "Sour Grapes," by Will Morrison.

Fred Hoeptner opened with James Scott's "Efficiency Rag." (May we add that he performed this toughie with great efficiency.) His second selection was Max Morath's "The Golden Hours," dedicated to the memory of Harriet Janis, who, with Rudy Blesh, wrote They All Played Ragtime, the first book on the subject. This number incorporates changing time signatures of 3/8, 4/8, and 2/8 and is in the keys of five flats, four flats, and two sharps. Again, not an easy number, but Fred had mastered it. He concluded with "Red Pepper," by Henry Lodge.

Stan Long began with the Joplin classic, "Solace, a Mexican Serenade," and followed up with a couple of his own compositions, "Haunting Accident" and "My Ditty." The latter is his signature piece, and is a vigorous and flashy medley of familiar melodies from here and there.

Having just arrived from Simi Valley, Les Soper played "Opalescence," by Hal Isbitz, a present-day California composer. Les continued with "Too Much Raspberry," a 1916 rag by Sidney K. Russell, an early California ragtimer. (It wouldn't surprise me if there are more ragtime composers in the Golden State today than there were during the heyday of the music almost a century ago.) Les rounded out the set with a stately Joplin classic, "Fig Leaf Rag."

It had reached intermission time, and while the audience stretched and visited, Bill Coleman entertained with background music of popular favorites.

San Clemente's Frank Sano opened the second half by inviting Howard Steffen and Bill Mitchell to join him on renditions of "Hard-Hearted Hannah," "Goofus," and "Stumbling." Zez Confrey was the composer of "Stumbling," which was a popular song of 1922.

Andrew Barrett and Phil Cannon joined forces on "Great Scott Rag," by, yes, James Scott. Andrew soloed on another of Confrey's "Three Little Oddities" ("Novelette") and concluded with Roy Bargy's "Behave Yourself." Andrew then had to leave for a gig in a Monrovia park with George Probert's Monrovia Old Style Jazz Band. He was to be appearing on drums with that group.

Les Soper returned to the piano to play a 1907 rag, "Red Peppers," by Imogene Giles. He concluded with Glen Jenks' "Elegiac Rag" from 1988.

Nancy Kleier encored with "Chandelier Rag," by Hal Isbitz, who, like Jenks and Hoeptner, writes impressive but often difficult rags.

Stan Long returned to perform a couple of very famous numbers now over a century old: "Hiawatha" and "Maple Leaf Rag."

Bill Mitchell closed the meeting with Wenrich's "The Smiler."

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