Rose Leaf Ragtime Club April Meeting (4/24/2005)
Over 40 members and players combined to make our April meeting another in a long string (nine years and counting!) of successful ragtime Sundays. Two new performers, 14 year-old Joel Hill from Lancaster and ragtime/stride veteran Rob Bottoms from Disneyland, showcased their talents to the delight of us all.
I opened the meeting with David Thomas Roberts' "Camille," a slow drag from 1979. It seems I have been concentrating on Mr. Roberts works for the past several months. No doubt I have developed an affinity for his lyricism, highly personal storytelling and overlay of the ragtime form onto larger, contemporary themes. They are pianistically challenging as well.
Bill Mitchell kicked up the tempo with Charles Johnson's "Porcupine Rag" from 1909. He continued a great set with Scott Joplin's inventive "Scott Joplin's New Rag" from 1912, and added a coup de grace with a fine, fine rendition of Jelly Roll Morton's classic "The Pearls." Bill and I then played a duet version of Joplin's "Original Rags" from 1899 to close out his set.
Ron Ross offered two original rags, "Acrosonic" (as in the brand of his old piano) and "Sutter Creek," written in honor of the increasingly popular Gold Coast ragtime festival. Like several of Ron's pieces, it has an intriguing blend of straight 2/4 ragtime and the "Spanish tinge" rhythm that Mr. Jelly Roll Morton extolled in so many of his compositions. Our tireless publicist closed his set with an early Joplin's number, the delicate "Palm Leaf Rag" from 1903.
Phil Cannon and Yuko Shimazaki joined on banjo and piano to play a different side of Joplin: rag waltzes. First was "Binks Waltz," then "Bethena." Instead of using a traditional, upbeat dance-like waltz tempo, Phil and Yuko slowed each piece down, effectively expanding the melodic lines and overall structure of each piece. This helped to bring out the serene beauty and European classical influences behind them.
Rob Bottoms, turned on to our club through Stan Long (thanks, Stan!), fired up the Yamaha and wowed us with Fats Waller's cutting-contest favorite "Handful of Keys." He moved to Joplin's classic early rag "Cascades," then finished with a medley of two great Gershwin tunes, "That Certain Feeling," from the 1925 musical Tip Toes, and "Kicking the Clouds Away," from 1927's Funny Face.
Frank Sano, percussionist with The Albany Nightboat Ragtimers and piano enthusiast, joined with Bill Mitchell in a series of traditional jazz standards, including the Gaskill/McHugh classic "I Cant' Believe That You're in Love With Me," Rodgers and Hart's "The Girlfriend," and "My Honey's Loving Arms," by Ruby and Meyer.
Joel Hill, a 14-year old pianist from Lancaster, came with his parents to the meeting. Apparently Joel found out about the Rose Leaf Club through the Internet. His knack for syncopation was immediately apparent as he performed an exciting, ragtime rendition of "America the Beautiful." He pleased the members even more with a sprightly "Maple Leaf Rag." Joel definitely has loads of natural ability. Despite the long drive from Lancaster, we hope he can continue to attend meetings and develop his talent before an appreciative audience!
Bill Coleman entertained us throughout the intermission with an extended medley of standards and favorites spanning the past 100 or so years, including "At a Georgia Camp Meeting," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Maria Elena," "Feelings" and several others.
Shirley Case opened the second half of the meeting with Luckey Roberts' "Pork and Beans," a terrific and complex piece from 1913. Although essentially a "rag," it still defies easy categorization. Even the original sheet music cover couldn't quite decide, calling it a "One Step/Two Step/Trot." No matter, it's become a staple in the arsenals of accomplished ragtime pianists like Shirley, who performed it with flourish.
For her next piece, Shirley brought up Eric Marchese, founder of the Orange County Ragtime Society (and annual Orange County RagFest), in a two-piano version of Joplin's "Gladiolus Rag" from 1907. This is, of course, a quintessential classic rag that shows the King of Ragtime at the height of his genius. Shirley put the finishing touches to an outstanding set with a favorite from another seminal ragtime genius, Mr. Eubie Blake's "Baltimore Todolo."
Stan Long flexed his syncopated muscles on three rags, first Joplin's impossible-not-to-like "Peacherine" from 1901, then Zez Confrey's 1923 novelty classic "Dizzy Fingers." He saved the best for last: his own "Haunting Accident" rag from 2004, an excellent blues/folk composition that teems with a true midwestern ragtime sound and rhythm.
Eric Marchese returned for three solos, working out his chops in preparation for his headlining gig at the Old Town Music Hall. He played two originals, "Jumping Jupiter" containing some very interesting dissonances, and "Clambake Capers," his latest composition. Eric finished his set with a 100 year-old Joplin rag, "Leola."
Yuko and Phil returned for a third duet, this time on Joplin's "Augustan Club Waltzes" from 1898. Again, the slower tempo they chose brought out the piece's long melodic lines and elegant structure.
Joel Hill came back up and played "Ragtime" the prologue from the 1998 musical of the same name. Next was Rob Bottoms, revisiting the keys and playing a virtuoso rendition of Robert Hampton's "Cataract Rag" from 1915.
Ron Ross fulfilled a request to perform his incandescent "Joplinesque," a marvelous original composition from 2000. Frank Sano and Bill Mitchell played two-piano duets on two more trad jazz classics: Clarence Williams' "Cakewalkin' Babies (From Home)" and "I've Been Floating Down the Old Green River" by Kalmer/Cooper.
Phil, Bill and myself combined on pianos and banjo in the Joplin/Hayden classic "Sunflower Slow Drag" from 1901. Eric, Phil and Bill put the bookends on another enjoyable meeting with Joplin's "Pine Apple Rag."
We hope you'll join us on May 29th for another three-plus hours of great music.
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