Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

APRIL, 2006


Rose Leaf Ragtime Club March Meeting (3/26/2006)

Reported by Bill Mitchell

Wow! That word sums up our March meeting. We had a full house and some exciting surprises. Gary Rametta and Ron Ross were unable to attend, so Phil Cannon agreed to be the afternoon's emcee. He invited Bill Mitchell to get the music underway.

Bill opened with "Creole Belles," J. Bodewalt Lampe's popular cakewalk of 1900. (According to historian H. Loring White in Ragging It, President Teddy Roosevelt did a cakewalk at a Christmas party in 1901 to the tune of Kerry Mills' "Whistling Rufus.") Bill's second selection was Scott Joplin's first published rag, "Original Rags." He concluded the set with "Pastime Rag No. 5," by Artie Matthews. Published in 1918, it was followed two years later by "Pastime No. 4," which John Stark held back because of its difficulty.

Andrew Barrett chose two winners from the Stark catalog: "Springtime Rag," by Paul Pratt, and "Top Liner Rag," by Joseph F. Lamb. These numbers were once recorded by the great Wally Rose on a 78 disc for the Good Time Jazz label, and I'm sure Wally would have commended Andrew for his impeccable playing and subtle embellishments to the scores. By way of contrast to these gentle classics, Andrew pulled out all the stops on a rarely heard Roy Bargy novelty of 1920, "Omeomy" (pronounced "Oh me, oh my").

Our newest member, Gene Oster (formerly pianist with the Hot Frogs Jumping Jazz Band), opened his set with "Cataract Rag," by Robert Hampton. This intricate 1914 showpiece of St. Louis ragtime was arranged by Artie Matthews. Gene mentioned that the composer was reported to have played it fast and with more notes than are indicated in the score. Next up was a charming ragtime waltz, "Eccentricity," by James P. Johnson. Gene concluded his set with the challenging "Dizzy Fingers," the Zez Confrey novelty classic of 1923.

Returning after an absence of a couple of months, Stan Long led off with a rag by Pat Aranda, "Sunday Evening at the Foxes." This number commemorates a convivial after-hours session at a bed-and-breakfast in Sutter Creek. Stan played this unpublished rag by ear. His next number was an original called "Haunting Accident." It was very much in the stomping Brun Campbell tradition. Stan wound up his set with what he called the "Pretty Song," which was a medley beginning with a familiar Chopin theme which led first into "New York, New York," and finally "Someone to Watch over Me."

Now it was time for our guest performer, Jay C. Munns. Mr. Munns had brought his own keyboard and sound system so that he could face the audience, as his act included some singing and talking in addition to pianistics. He opened with "At the Ball, That's All." He explained that this number from an early Ziegfeld Follies would be recognized by Laurel and Hardy fans because in the movie "Way Out West" the duo did a soft shoe routine to it in front of a saloon. Specializing in early 20th-century popular music, Mr. Munns, like Max Morath and Ian Whitcomb, is a well-rounded entertainer. He continued with a lively song called "All the Quakers Are Shoulder Shakers," by Pete Wendling. He then spoke of the remarkably gifted and prolific Irving Berlin. He recalled that when Jerome Kern was asked to comment on Berlin's place in American popular music, Kern said, "Irving Berlin has no place in American popular music. He is American popular music." Mr. Munns then played Berlin's lovely waltz, "Always."

Another great songwriter, Walter Donaldson, contributed the next song, the big 1927 hit, "My Blue Heaven." From the jazz age came the ditty that followed: "Take Me to the Land of Jazz," by Pete Wendling.

Mr. Munns' five-year-old granddaughter, Stephanie, participated in the next segment of the program, which also involved audience participation. The talented youngster sang the choruses, and the audience then joined her in the repeats on a moon medley: "On Moonlight Bay," "Shine on, Harvest Moon," and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." We had a mellow sing-along.

To close the set and the first half of the meeting, Phil Cannon (banjo) joined Mr. Munns in smooth duets on the late Joplin classics, "Magnetic Rag" and "Silver Swan."

Bill Coleman, our regular intermission pianist, played an extended medley of pop standards, opening with "At a Georgia Camp Meeting," while the club members circulated and socialized.

The second half began with an ad hoc quartet, with Frank Sano and Bill Mitchell on the two uprights, with Andrew Barrett on washboard and Howard Steffens on banjo. They stomped off on three old-time favorites: "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," "'Deed I Do," and "Shine."

Thirteen-year-old Vincent Johnson, currently our youngest member, played "Queen Victoria," a medley he composed, and as an encore played Zez Confrey's most popular novelty number, "Kitten on the Keys."

Les Soper opened his segment with Joplin's "The Chrysanthemum," which the composer dedicated to his second wife, Freddie Alexander. Les chose for his second number "Baroque Rag," by Martin Jaeger. This beautiful piece shows the influence of Bach, according to Les. Luckey Roberts' frisky "Junk Man Rag" was Les's peppy closer.

Gene Oster returned to the Yamaha to encore on a stride version of "California, Here I Come," and the Jimmy McHugh ballad, "I Can't Give You Anything but Love."

The windup set of the day was spectacular. Jay C. Munns on keyboard was joined by Andrew and Les on their washboards, Frank Sano on ukulele, and five (count 'em!) banjos: Phil Cannon, Howard Steffens, Mona Lisa Lentini, Lee Chapman, and Mickey Fruchter. This band filled the room with melody and rhythm on "Darktown Strutters Ball," "Bill Bailey," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and "Down in Jungle Town." The excited audience demanded an encore, so the ensemble brought the meeting to a close with "Please Don't Talk about Me When I'm Gone."

We'll be talking about this meeting for a long time!

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