Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

DECEMBER, 2004

NUMBER 104

Rose Leaf Ragtime Club November Meeting (11/28/2004)

Reported by Gary Rametta


Sorry if you missed out on our November meeting, featuring guest artist Nan Bostick. The 50 or so attendees who joined us were treated to Nan's irresistible humor, depth of ragtime knowledge and tremendous playing. In addition, the performances of our club's artist-regulars were excellent across the board.

Gary Rametta kicked off the afternoon with a slow drag in the folk-rag style, "Camille" by David Thomas Roberts. For a change of pace, he moved to Zez Confrey's "Nickel in the Slot" from 1923, a number that paid homage to the venerable Nickelodeon, that antique carousel music box from the turn of the century.

Bill Mitchell, who participated in the annual San Diego Dixieland jazz festival earlier in the week, noted that 2004 marked the 100th anniversary of Fats Waller's birth. Appropriately, he played a beautiful medley of some of Waller's most beloved tunes, including "Honeysuckle Rose," "Blue Turning Gray Over You," "How Can You Face Me?" "Keepin' Out of Mischief," "Aint Misbehavin," "Gotta Feeling I'm Falling" and "Crazy 'Bout My Baby." He then gave us a happy, swinging rendition of Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag."

Ron Ross took the mike with a few club- and event-related announcements, then played his melancholic "Sweet is the Sound" habanera, followed by Joplin's tender "Palm Leaf Rag."

Stan Long began with his "Haunting Accident" rag, putting it in context by humorously describing the events and influences that inspired it. He continued with Joplin's great "Peacherine Rag" from 1901, and finished off with another original, "My Ditty," which he described as a combination of all kinds of things, mixed together with "Chopsticks."

Nancy Kleier came up with a post-Thanksgiving musical feast in store, giving us an idea of how to make the leftovers in our refrigerators a little more appealing, in three easy ragtime steps. First was Harry Belding's "Good Gravy" rag from 1913, followed by "Hot Chocolate Rag" a 1903 piece by Malvin Franklin and Arthur Lange. She concluded a delectable set with Percy Wenrich's "Whipped Cream" from 1913.

Nan Bostick kicked off the first of her two sets with what she called a great warm-up rag, "The Bean Whistle Rag," composed by her in the early 1970s. Next was her recently written "Missing You Rag," a wistful, longing and passionate work in memory of her late father, as well as influential ragtime figures Bob Darch, Bill Coffman and Phil McCoy, all of whom passed in 2004.

She continued with "Meadowlark Rag", a fine piece written in 1915 by Tom Pitts. Pitts was an itinerant black pianist and composer who Nan's great-uncle Charles Daniels found in San Francisco at the Pan Pacific Fair.

Nan has recently co-headed an effort along with ragtime pianist Nora Hulse at assembling a compendium of ragtime works authored by women. She played one of the hundreds of these unheralded but excellent pieces, "X-N-Tric Rag" written in 1898-99 by Detroit-born composer Louise V. Gustin.

There are a handful of great ragtime scholars working today, but none is as well versed in the history and works of Charles Daniels as Ms. Bostick. Daniels was a legendary songwriter, composer, arranger, salesman and publisher whose name and pseudonyms appear on a prolific number of scores beginning in 1898 and continuing for the next 40 years. Nan wrapped up her first set with a gem called "Woodland Dove (My Gypsy Love)" written by Daniels under the pen name Neil Moret.

As we broke for a brief intermission, Yuko Shimazaki provided soothing sounds with Joplin's multifaceted "Reflection Rag," published by John Stark after the composer's death. Bill Coleman followed with his cheerful medley of standards and pop tunes.

Gary opened the second-half of the meeting with "For Kansas City," David Thomas Roberts' ambitious contemporary ragtime piece published in 1980.

Next, Bill Mitchell played Abe Olman's "Winter Garden Rag," recalling that it was the first rag he ever heard, from a 1950 recording by Lee Stafford and his trad jazz quartet. He followed up with his favorite Joplin rag, "Scott Joplin's New Rag," one of the composer's most musically inventive creations, written in 1912.

The expert six-string work of Phil Cannon was long overdue, but we finally got to hear him perform in three trio performances with Bill Mitchell and Nan Bostick. They started off with an extended version of Daniels' first popular song, "You Tell Me Your Dream, I'll Tell You Mine." A waltz ballad with lyrics by Seymour Rice and Albert Brown, it debuted in Kansas City in 1899 and quickly became a standard, giving Daniels the impetus he needed to start his own publishing firm.

Next was Joplin's 1899 "Original Rags," which bears Daniels' name as arranger, even though (according to Nan) his only contribution was transcribing the piece and allowing Hoffman Publishing to use his name to help promote it. "Original Rags" may not have put Joplin on the map as much as "Maple Leaf Rag," but it embodies the essence of the midwestern ragtime spirit just as vividly. By the way, Phil, Bill and Nan's performance of this ageless classic was inspiring. The trio filled out their mini-set with another Daniels success, "Chlo-e (The Song of the Swamp)," written by Daniels as Neil Moret in 1927.

Ms. Bostick stayed on to play for the remainder of the meeting. She began with what turned out to be an A-plus performance of Harry Guy's elegant "Echoes From the Snowball Club." Written in 1898, it was the first ragtime waltz ever published, and remains one of the most magnificent. Next, Nancy Kleier joined Nan in another tune by Guy, the catchy and march-like "Pearl of the Harem (An Oriental Rag Two-Step)" from 1898.

Nan continued with some more excellent soloing on "Poker Rag," written by Detroiter Charlotte Blake in 1909.

Nancy rejoined Nan in a duet of Daniels' "Cotton Time," a rag and two-step published in 1910 when Daniels headed Jerome Remick's publishing firm in Detroit. After this, Stan Long joined Nan on Daniels' 1898 classic "Margery." A march and two-step, this tune put Daniels on the map before his 20th birthday. Nan and Stan's rendition was joyous, making it easy to see why Margery attracted such a huge response.

Nan finished off the meeting with Daniels' (a.k.a. Neil Moret) "Hiawatha, A Summer Idyll," noteworthy for its exotic sound that spearheaded (no pun intended) a decades-long industry predilection for Indian love songs. According to Nan, Remick paid Daniels $10,000 for the rights to the tune, re-releasing it in 1903 with lyrics and a new arrangement by Harry Guy, after which it became an international success.

The IHOP banquet room remained abuzz with enthusiasm well after Ms. Bostick struck the final chord of Hiawatha. Nan's enthusiasm and energy were definitely contagious; members stayed around and chatted longer than after any meeting I can recall.

If you weren't able to be with us, you missed out on a real treat. Nan Bostick is a gregarious, funny, knowledgeable and energetic ragtimer. She's also too modest about her piano-playing prowess, in my opinion. After her performance at the Rose Leaf Club last year, I remarked how impressed I was with her touch, dynamics, phrasing and interpretations. If it's possible, she's gotten only better. Underneath her lighthearted demeanor is a real piano pro. At the keyboard, she knows where she's been, where she's going and how to get there. She's in total control and her touch is simply marvelous. At many moments during her solos, I felt my heart wrenching.

When a musician's performance becomes something beyond the mechanics of fingers depressing keys, when you no longer hear the playing but instead feel the story and understand the musical language, you know you're witnessing something special. Nan Bostick brings out that special something when she plays ragtime.

We look forward to seeing you at our next get-together, Sunday December 26 at 2:30 PM.


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