Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club August Meeting (8/29/2004)

Reported by Gary Rametta

The usual regulars of members and performers stopped by the Pasadena IHOP for the August meeting. Ron Ross reminded us that this was the club's ninth anniversary. Notwithstanding the absence of a birthday cake or other party refreshments, everyone enjoyed three full hours of excellent music.

Gary Rametta opened the meeting with Scott Joplin's "Sugar Cane" rag, composed in 1908 after the King of Ragtime moved from Missouri to New York City. Although it uses the four-section "classic rag" format, "Sugar Cane" has less in common with the folk-based roots of the composer's early efforts, and more in common with the sophisticated, thematic works like "Gladiolus" and "Fig Leaf."

Ron Ross took over the keys with "Joy Boy," an obscure 1916 piece from Buffalo, NY native A.J. Weigt. I doubt that it had ever been played at the club prior to Ron's essay. Its lightly syncopated tempo is reminiscent of a fox trot. It also incorporates some blues-inspired elements. In all, it was pleasant and relaxing. Ron continued with a new piano/vocal of his own, another humorous tale of lost love called "Getting Over You."

Next was our first duet, led by Phil Cannon on his guitar/banjo, accompanied by Shirley Case on the Yamaha upright. Two great Joplin tunes were on the menu, Heliotrope Bouquet (a Louis Chauvin/Joplin collaboration) and the wonderful "Paragon Rag." Both Phil's and Shirley's playing were excellent, as was Fred Hoeptner, who came up next to accompany Phil on "The Strenuous Life." Like the majority of his opus, these three Joplin rags are miraculous musical excursions that never grow old.

Shirley Case came up for a solo set, starting with "Eubie's Classical Rag," by Mr. Blake. Her technique and interpretation were tasteful, clean and professional. Next was Terry Waldo's "Proctology" rag, reputedly a kind of "up-yours" on the composer's part to members of a band with which he'd been ingloriously detached. Perhaps in keeping with its name, "Proctology" is a rather strange, difficult piece that defies categorization, at times sounding honky-tonk, at times moody. However, Shirley played it with smoothness, gusto and expertise. For her third solo, Mrs. Case tickled the keys with sheer virtuosity on James Scott's "Frog Legs Rag."

Gary returned for a second solo with "For Kansas City," David Thomas Roberts' inspired, 1980 ragtime oeuvre.

Fred was next to solo, first on James Scott's ageless "Grace and Beauty," then Lodge's "Red Pepper, a Spicy Rag" which reveals, on close listening, traces of "Temptation Rag," Lodge's most successful rag.

Following was Nancy Kleier, who once again proved she can come up with a rag for every need, mood or purpose. She chose "Back to School" for her theme this month. To start off, she paid homage to fidgety kids with George Botsford's "Wiggle Rag." Written in 1909, its first strain sounds very much like a Percy Wenrich creation. Continuing with the theme of rambunctious ruffians, she next played Claude Messinger's march-like "The Troublemaker," from 1910, followed by J. Bodewalt Lampe's "Happy Heine" from 1905. As always, the set was loads of fun, and a great way to hear rags we'd likely never hear otherwise. Nancy's particular genius is a treasure for the Rose Leaf Club!

With the clock striking 4:00 PM, we broke for intermission, during which Mr. Bill Coleman sat at the Yamaha and laid out a comfortable vibe with his selection of standards and pop tunes.

Stan Long opened the second half of the program with Charles Daniels' "Indian Summer," featuring an attractive first strain. Next was Daniels' influential "Hiawatha" another showcase for the talents of this prolific composer, arranger and publisher. Stan concluded his set with his enjoyable "My Ditty," a ragged-time potpourri of familiar songs and jingles, including "Chopsticks," "Stars and Stripes, "Go See Cal" and "It's a Small World."

Andrew Barrett came up and delivered a fine solo set, opening with New York novelty-era composer Eastwood Lane's "The Land of the Loon," from his 1922 Adirondack Sketches. Lane's pieces are impressionistic, enigmatic, forward-thinking musical portraits whose stylings influenced generations of jazz composers. Next, Andrew essayed James Scott's tricky "Efficiency Rag," then concluded with a marvelous rendition of Bix Beiderbecke's Lane-inspired "In a Mist."

Next, Andrew was joined by banjoists Phil Cannon and Howard Stephens (hailing from the San Gabriel Valley Banjo Society), and Les Soper on custom washboard. The quartet performed an extended rendition of Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and Joplin's "The Entertainer." Both were well received by the audience.

Les then got his fingers dancing in a washboard accompaniment to "'Deed I Do," a track from the duo-piano CD of Mssrs. Bill Mitchell and Sonny Leyland. Moving to the piano, Les played nicely on Tom Turpin's landmark "Harlem Rag," Martin J?ger's "Baroque Rag," a reworking of Bach's liturgical "Sanctify Us By Thy Goodness," and Joplin's "Cascades."

Shirley Case returned to the keys for two more tasty solos, Adaline Shepard's "Pickles and Peppers" and George Florence's "Sweet Pickles."

Gary brought us to the homestretch with David Thomas Roberts' "Pinelands Memoir." Nancy Kleier followed, playing Artie Matthews' "Pastime Rag No. 3." Andrew Barrett brought the meeting to a close with a bravura rendition of Mark Janza's "Lion Tamer Rag."

After three-plus hours and more than 35 tunes, we called it an afternoon. Of course, we promise to fill your ears and hearts (and, if we can remember the belated birthday cake, your stomachs) with another heaping helping of music and good, clean fun on Sunday, September 26 at 2:30 PM. Hope to see you there!

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