Rose Leaf Ragtime Club December Meeting (12/26/2004)
About 35 dyed-in-the-wool ragtimers gathered at our usual stomping grounds, the Pasadena IHOP, to give a collective send-off to 2004. The turnout was not bad at all, considering it was the day after Christmas and the weather was rainy, windy and cold.
Gary Rametta opened the meeting with Scott Joplin's first published rag from 1899, "Original Rags." Next was David Thomas Roberts' elegiac "Roberto Clemente," followed by Joplin's magnificent "Gladiolus Rag."
Up next was Nancy Kleier, premiering two original ragtime compositions by club member Steve Parker. Steve recently compiled a CD of his works, which were converted to midi files and output through a computer. Nancy first played Steve's "Hyacinth Rag," then his "Wedding Day Rag." Both showed the composer's instinct for sweet, pretty melodies within a diatonic structure. Nancy closed with Galen Wilkes' "Sweet Dreams," a rag waltz. It was an apt choice, for the melodic and harmonic styles of both composers are similar.
We asked Steve to introduce himself and talk a little about his compositions and influences. Interestingly, he informed us that the rags on his CD, composed over a 19-year period, were initially written for the mandolin, and originally consisted of a melodic line and accompanying chords. Later, after working with some arrangers, he was able to score the pieces as rags. Steve credited his wife of 20 years as the inspiration for his rags.
Following Steve was Ron Ross, who told us he was pleasantly surprised to hear his rag "Sunday Serendipity" on a recent Internet broadcast from the site Elite Syncopations. (Check out the site at www.ragtimeradio.org. It's run by two college students attending William and Mary.) Ron proceeded to perform this enjoyable tune that features tango-like accents at the end of each of its sections. He then passed out sheet music and led us in a sing along version of his "Rose Leaf Way," an ode to founder P.J. Schmidt and the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club.
Andrew Barrett came up to perform George L. Cobb's "Cracked Ice Rag," featuring adventurous left-hand embellishments, and Zez Confrey's impressionistic "Novelette" from the composer's 1923 Oddities suite. He concluded with "Polar Bear Rag," a little-heard 1910 piece from San Franciscan George Howard. It's a real treat to see and hear Andrew as his repertoire and technique continue to expand.
Phil Cannon and Yuko Shimazaki combined on banjo and piano in a soothing and well played "Reflection Rag," the last published Scott Joplin rag. Phil continued on his six-string with an amazing medley of excerpts from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite." He concluded with Joplin's sweetest waltz, "Bethena."
Gary took us to the end of the first half of the musicale with Confrey's "Nickel in the Slot." As we broke for intermission, Yuko returned to the keys and evoked shimmering light with her excellent performance of Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune." Afterwards, Bill Coleman did a nice job on his medley of standards and pop tunes.
The second-half opened with Bob Pinsker introducing an extended set of Fats Waller pieces in commemoration of the 100- year anniversary of Waller's birth. First off was "Snake Hip Dance," written by Waller in 1929 for the show "Snake Dance." It was quite daring in its use of chromatically ascending 13th chords.
Next was "Keep Shufflin'," which Waller penned in 1921 as a follow-up to the Blake/Sissle hit "Shufflin' Along." Bob continued with "Willow Tre, A Musical Misery," featuring bluesy resolutions and boogie-influenced bass chord movement, and "Oriental Tones," one of Waller's first published instrumental compositions. I really enjoyed the next one, "Wallerin' Around," a fast jump with "Carolina Shout"-like echoes in the second strain. I also picked up a little foreshadowing of Waller's "Handful of Keys" in the melody.
Bob noted that about 98 percent of Waller's 400-plus tunes were songs, so it was only appropriate to do some piano/vocal Waller numbers. First was the catchy and clever "Concentratin'" from 1931, then "Palm Garden" from a 1942 set of published instrumentals that Waller never recorded to vinyl. Bob's blues solo on this one was really tasteful. Next were "Early to Bed" and "This is so Nice," both written for shows in the early 1940s.
Bob then discussed a visit Fats made to England in 1939, during which he recorded six improvised instrumentals later compiled into a series called "The London Suite." Bob performed "Bond Street," a piece from the suite named after a shopping district in London.
Next was "Ain't-Cha Glad," a lively piano/vocal from 1933. It contains riffs that can also be found in Waller's "Squeeze Me." Bob capped off his outstanding Waller retrospective with perhaps the most famous of all Fats tunes, "Ain't Misbehavin'."
Nancy returned to the keys with well wishes to all for a Happy New Year, ragtime style. Her first wish was for our mutual prosperity, and James Scott's "Prosperity Rag" fit the bill. Next was for our mutual contentment; Joseph Lamb's "Contentment Rag" reminded us of just that. Finally, she recommended we all look for the silver lining in 2005 no matter what clouds may blow our way; Eric Marchese's "Silver Lining" was a positive reinforcement for that sentiment.
Andrew brought us down the homestretch with a rarity, "Bonehead Blues," a rag from the teens written by Leo Gordon. Next, he carefully essayed Fred Hoeptner's "Idyll of Autumn." To close his set, he improvised on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," saying (and showing us) that Santa had already been in town and was now striding home. Andrew displayed some fine examples of stride piano ideas and technique in his performance.
Gary helped put the bookend on another successful year for the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club with Eastwood Lane's "Legend of Lonesome Lake" from the New York composer's 1922 suite, Adirondack Sketches.
To all our faithful supporters, performers and volunteers: Thanks for a great year. We couldn't do it without you! We'll see you again the last Sunday of January, 1/30/05 at 2:30 PM.
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