Something Doing

Ragtime Happenings in the Southland

AUGUST, 2006


Rose Leaf Ragtime Club July Meeting (7/30/2006)

Reported by Bill Mitchell

Gary Rametta launched the meeting with a superb rendition of "Roberto Clemente," by David Thomas Roberts. He then welcomed the large audience of over 50 listeners. There had been considerable visiting going on during Gary's solo, so Hal Leavens briefly took the mike to gently remind everyone that silence is golden during the performances.

Gary invited Frank Sano, Bill Mitchell, and Phil Cannon (two pianos and banjo) to play a set of old standards. The trio opened with "Taking a Chance on Love," a Vernon Duke composition sung by Ethel Waters in the 1943 movie musical, "Cabin in the Sky." They continued with "'Deed I Do," a 1926 pop song by Fred Rose. To wind up the set, they played a barnburner from 1930, George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm."

Vincent Johnson, our youngest performer at 14 years old, played two early Joplin classics. "Weeping Willow" (1903) was taken at a nice leisurely tempo, accentuating the nostalgia and melodiousness of the piece. He then played "Sunflower Slow Drag" (1901), commenting that this was the piece that got him interested in ragtime when he heard it on a friend's CD. He was fascinated by the syncopation in it.

Gene Oster, former pianist with the "Hot Frogs Jumping Jazz Band," opened with "Sensation," which was Joseph F. Lamb's first rag to be published by John Stark in 1908. He then showed us how Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" could be interpreted in different ways, first slowly, as it was presented in the movie, "Pretty Baby," and then fast, as in a chase scene from another movie.

Gary then introduced the guest performer of the day, pianist-songwriter-singer Nyle Frank. Although Nyle is a native of California and attended John Marshall High School in L.A. and U.C.L.A., he has spent many years in North Carolina and Tennessee. (If you are on the Internet, Google his website for more particulars.) His two sets of the afternoon consisted entirely of original material. He opened with "Tiger Woods Rag," which he facetiously commented should be played in 72 strokes. Next came "Moon Fish Rag," written in 1992 in Hawaii, where this fish abounds. Changing the pace, he played "Old Lovers' Waltz," written to commemorate his parents' 63rd wedding anniversary. "Illinois Rag" pinpoints a state, but Nyle said he doesn't know why he selected that title. "I Still Remember Dancing with You" is an autobiographical song that recalls a junior-high-school romance. About four decades later he and the one-time object of his affections met again at a class reunion, and she is now his girl-friend once again. "Weimaraner Rag" celebrates a breed of dog. The gentle and reflective "Centennial Park Waltz" honors a Nashville locale dubbed "The Athens of the South," which contains a replica of the Greek Parthenon. Nyle concluded this set with "Salzberry Post March."

Nancy Kleier always comes to the meetings with a theme. This time is was class reunions. She said every class has someone who has absorbed everything he has read or heard. W. C. Simon's "Sponge" (1911) seemed appropriate for such a person. Also, another typical classmate is the person who is bad news, one who is just itching for trouble. "Poison Ivy Rag" was Nancy's rash choice to nail this guy.

Shirley Case, Laguna Beach's premier ragtimer, remarked that the weather had been too hot for playing up-tempo rags, so she had decided to do a couple of Trebor Tichenor compositions from 1994: "Cape Rose Rag" and "Glen Arbor Rag." Both are marked "moderato." They are found in Tichenor's Tempus Ragorum folio.

Phil Cannon contributed two of his remarkable arrangements of Joplin numbers for solo banjo. He played "Pleasant Moments," a ragtime waltz from 1909, commenting that this was probably the first time this number has been performed at a Rose Leaf Club meeting. He concluded his set with "Scott Joplin's New Rag," which was published in 1912. Why the vague title "New Rag"? Perhaps the composer had run out of leaves or trees.

Bill Mitchell had planned to play "Scott Joplin's New Rag," but substituted "Original Rags" instead. Jelly Roll Morton included this Joplin number in his "New Orleans Memories" album of 1939, forty years after the number was published. For his second number Bill chose James Scott's "Sunburst Rag," which Tichenor and Jasen characterized as "One of the great joys of classic ragtime."

Ron Ross was honored to have been interviewed on a radio station in Indianapolis, Indiana, with some of his rags being broadcast. He played a couple of them for us. "Joplinesque—a Gringo Tango" is Ron's favorite of all his many compositions. It is a lovely piece with what J. R. Morton called "the Spanish Tinge." His second choice was the ever popular "Digital Rag."

Les Soper is a great admirer of the work of Maine's Glen Jenks. He once wrote him a fan letter, and received in return a stack of manuscripts, much to Les's delight. For his first number Les played Jenks' "The Black Preacher." His second number was Joe Lamb's "Cottontail Rag," which is somewhat similar to that composer's "Top Liner Rag," and equally meritorious.

Nyle Frank's second set included eight more of his originals, leading off with "Early Bird Rag." "Riding with Pachelbel" is a spin on the popular canon by the 17th-century composer. "Bach in the Big Easy" takes Johann Sebastian to New Orleans. "Hub Deer" (I don't vouch for the spelling) is Yiddish for "go to hell." "This I Promise" has something of a country-western flavor, as do several of Nyle's pieces. "On the Midway" refers neither to a battle, and island, or a carrier, but instead the fun zone of a carnival. "Maria's Theme" is a gentle one. "Irregardless Rag" finished the set.

Fred Hoeptner contributed a beautifully played "One for Amelia," by Max Morath, who dedicated it to Amelia Lamb, Joe's widow. Fred followed up with James Scott's challenging "Efficiency Rag."

The meeting ran a little overtime with Nancy and Bill at the keyboards (pianos, actually), Phil on banjo, and Les on washboard, jamming on three Joplin rags: "Peacherine," "Easy Winners," and "Elite Syncopations."

This was an exciting and well-attended meeting. We hope to see everyone back at the IHOP the last Sunday of this month.

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