Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland



Rose Leaf Ragtime Club January Meeting (1/30/2005)

Reported by Gary Rametta

The Rose Leaf Club made a strong start to the New Year with over 40 members and performers in attendance at our January meeting. The selections played were varied and interesting, and the talents of two new performers were particularly noteworthy.

After some brief welcoming remarks, Gary Rametta opened the program with "Rag Sentimental," a romantic rag from James Sylvester Scott, known as one of ragtime's "Big Three." Gary continued with "Pinelands Memoir," an anthem-like contemporary rag by David Thomas Roberts, who stated that it is intended to echo his southern nationalist roots and evoke the ethnocentric spirit of the south.

Bill Mitchell took over the Yamaha and treated us to three compositions from one of Scott Joplin's prot?g?s, Scott Hayden (whose sister was Joplin's first wife). First was the classic "Sunflower Slow Drag," published by John Stark in 1901 when Hayden was about 19 years old. Joplin is listed as co-writer, although his contribution seems to be in the third strain only. Next was "Something Doing" from 1903. To me, this excellent piece's left-hand work foreshadowed that of the New York stride pianists. Bill concluded with "Felicity Rag," probably written around the same time but not published until 1911, after Hayden had left Sedalia and moved to Chicago, where he worked as an elevator operator.

Andrew Barrett opened with "Greased Lightning," from a folio of previously unpublished Joseph Lamb tunes recently compiled and released by Lamb's daughter Patricia Lamb Conn. Most of the rags in this folio (Little Lost Lamb) have a decided folk flavor, and contain unexpected twists and turns. These pieces were likely composed between 1908-1913, shortly after Lamb's "Sensation" appeared. Andrew continued with Joplin's sweet "Weeping Willow," playing it softly but adding some lovely reharmonizations in the B- and C-sections. He concluded with a barnburner called "Tomato Sauce," written in 1925 by blues pianist Fred Longshaw and appearing in a 1927 folio of jazz, blues and stride pieces. Several of Longshaw's blues compositions were recorded by well-known blues singers like Bessie Smith, Josephine Byrd and Martha Copeland.

Phil Cannon, our resident maestro of the six-string, performed for the first time on a nylon-stringed classical guitar. He noted that the instrument's tonal quality and delicateness of touch lent themselves particularly to Joplin's rags. With tongue in cheek, he remarked that 2005 was the 100th year anniversary of 1905. He went on to play two Joplin pieces from that year, "Binks Waltz" and "Eugenia." As usual, his reductions of the piano scores to the guitar, and his detailed performances of them, were deeply satisfying.

Ron Ross performed two of his piano compositions, both from his Ragtime Renaissance CD. First was the bluesy "Ragtime Song," then the minor-keyed "Moscow Rag." Though it doesn't have lyrics, "Ragtime Song" seems to be a perfect candidate for some. Its melodic line is sweet and innocent, and its harmonies give the piece a pensive, rueful quality.

Next at the keys was Les Soper. He began an excellently-played set with Joplin's winding "Chrysanthemum," noting that its subtitle probably constituted one of the first uses of the term "Afro-American" in print. Following was a ragtime classic he remembered his mother having always kept on her piano, "Maple Leaf Rag," then a rip-roaring version of Charles L. Johnson's "Dill Pickles." After the meeting, Les jammed with Bill Mitchell on dual pianos. Those who stayed around got to hear some wonderful playing. Bill and Les will be performing together at an upcoming concert at UCLA.

Up next was multi-talented Frank Sano. In addition to his pianistic exploits, Frank is the percussionist and washboardist for the "Albany Nightboat Ragtimers," the ragtime and traditional jazz quartet that features Bill Mitchell on piano and appears at a many ragtime and jazz festivals. Frank brought Bill up to the Gulbrandsen and the two turned out some great duets from the jazz age, "I Cant' Believe That You're in Love With Me," "Varsity Drag," "Cakewalkin' Babies From Home" and "Stumbling."

As we broke for intermission, Yuko Shimazaki took over the Yamaha upright and played a lovely Argentinean tango from the ragtime era called "Velada Criolla." Bill Coleman took us through the remainder of the break with his medley of 20th century standards and pop tunes.

Nancy Kleier opened the second half of the program with a set related to the movies, specifically to the picture about Howard Hughes' achievements as a flier, "The Aviator." The order in which she played her numbers was designed to illustrate Hughes' increasing rise up the atmosphere. Nancy opened our ears with three rags heretofore unknown by me. First was "The Flyer," an obscure rag from 1908 written by Indiana violinist Frieda Aufderheide. Next was "Cloud Kisses," a 1911 piece by Charles L. Johnson, published under one of his pseudonyms, Raymond Birch. Last was a remarkable performance of "Floating Along," composed in 1906 by Edward Buffington. As the title suggested, it had an extra-musical, ethereal quality that, for the duration of the piece, sent my thoughts and cares far up into the stratosphere.

Making his first appearance before the club was Roberto Pasquariello, a young man who clearly possesses excellent training. Roberto's performance of Joplin's great "Gladiolus Rag" was first rate. His tempo, rhythm and dynamics were spot on, and his execution of the fast octave runs in the C-section was especially inspiring. The members were unanimously appreciative of his effort. We hope Roberto continues to join us, as he's definitely found a welcome home for his ragtime playing.

The same can be said about our next performer, another Rose Leaf initiate: John Iwanaga. I called John up on the spur of the moment, and though he claimed he was unprepared to play, he did so in grand fashion. John showed he clearly has a well-developed ragtime repertoire under his belt. He displayed a precise, meticulous technique and beautiful touch on the C- and D-sections of Joplin's "Solace." Equally impressive was his artistry on the first three sections of Joplin's challenging "Magnetic Rag." Both John and Roberto will be great assets to the club. Let's get them to keep coming back!

After this bevy of outstanding solo piano, we brought Les, Bill and Frank back up for a fun filled, piano-piano-washboard rendition of "Coney Island Washboard," the popular jazz standard. Yuko Shimazaki and Phil Cannon added another duet, this time in an exquisite performance of Joplin's "Bethena" waltz.

Ron Ross returned to the keys with another tender Joplin rag, "Palm Leaf." Fred Hoeptner followed with Henry Lodge's "Red Pepper," and Nancy, Bill, Les and Phil finished the meeting off with a great quartet performance of Joplin's "Peacherine Rag."

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