NOVEMBER 2000 NUMBER 55
ROSE LEAF RAGTIME CLUB MEETING (10/29/2000)
Reported by Gary Rametta
Aside from the steady and sometimes heavy downpour of rain that visited the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains, the final Sunday of October 2000 brought some unexpected delights to the monthly meeting of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club. We heard from some new players, enjoyed several impromptu duets and even had a reporter from the Los Angeles Times visit with and interview several players and guests. A subsequent article about the meeting and performances appeared in the San Gabriel Valley section of The Times the following week, as well as on the L.A. Times Internet web site.
After our organizational meeting (the details of which are reported below by Ron Ross), Gary Rametta kick-started the music with "X.L. Rag," a 1903-4 folk rag gem penned by J. Edgar Settle of Sedalia, MO. Gary then invited Bill Mitchell to join him in a couple of duets, first, "Blame it on the Blues" by Charles Cooke, then Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag." The Cooke number is a wonderful piece, lots of fun to play and definitely worthy of some more study. We'll bring it back again with an even better rendition, I pledge!
Bill then took over the keys with "Boomerang Rag," from 1916, the last rag written by the talented George Botsford, composer of the ever-popular "Black and White Rag." Bill's next tune was "Cotton Time," written by Charles Daniels, who also arranged and published Joplin's first rag ("Original Rags"). Bill pointed out that Daniels had a body of work that extended beyond ragtime into the popular song genre.
Yuko Shimazaki came up and surprised us by departing from her exploration of Argentinean Tangos to perform some rags for us. Being a classically schooled pianist, Yuko naturally gravitated toward two of the most challenging works in the entire repertoire. To start with, she laid down the gauntlet with Joplin's "Magnetic Rag," the composer's final and most autobiographical work. It's also his toughest to interpret, as it departs from the traditional ragtime formula with its sonata-like form and constantly changing moods. Next she gave us Luckey Robert's exceedingly difficult "Pork and Beans," which features leaping stride figures in the left hand and a mix of playful runs and full chords in the right. Yuko's playing was outstanding.
Next was Annette Given, making the trip from Bakersfield once again to play for us. Her first piece was a modern rag by Thomas P. Quinn: "Cardiac Rag," filled with syncopation and boasting an extroverted tone. Well done!
Annette's second solo was "Old Virginia Rag," a piano rag I hadn't heard prior to her performance. I didn't get the year it was written, but the author's last name was Douglas. Annette's playing on this was terrific as well. She's come on very quickly and we're more than happy to have her play for us.
We then heard from Bill Coleman, who until now has been sitting back enjoying the music along with the rest of the guests. Bill gave us enjoyable renditions of ragtime and cakewalk, starting with Joplin's "The Entertainer" from 1901 and "At a Georgia Camp Meeting" from 1899.
Eric Marchese stopped by and played a couple of tunes for us. First was a Tin-Pan Alley piece called "The Kangaroo Hop," composed in 1915 by Melville Morris. Eric did a fine job on this one, as he did on his second solo, an original rag entitled "Zephyrs of Spring" which follows the classic rag format. He noted that he first began working on Zephyrs about a year ago, laid it on the shelf, then picked it back up earlier this year and finished it off. Eric's now written what has to be well over 36 original ragtime compositions dating back to the 1980's. Quite a portfolio!
Joining us for the first time was Phil Cannon, a musician from Garden Grove, who's married his love of classic ragtime to his unique instrument: the guitar-banjo, which looks like a banjo but has six strings. The sound it emits is earthy and down-home, kind of like what you'd imagine hearing on the bayou or the Mississippi Delta around the turn of the 20th century. At any rate, a welcome instrument from which to hear ragtime played. Phil fingerpicked two Joplin classics; first the evocative "Gladiolus Rag," then the lovely "Bethena" concert waltz. Next time, we promise to work out the microphoning a little better, but that notwithstanding, the audience was genuinely appreciative and pleased with Phil's efforts!
Fred Hoeptner came up to perform a couple of bread-and-butter ragtime pieces, starting with James Scott's marvelous "Victory Rag" from around 1915-18, then concluding with Henry Lodge's popular "Red Pepper" from 1910. We can always count on Fred to play some of James Scott's inimitable rags and for that, we say "Thanks." For, if Joplin is the King of Ragtime (which he most certainly is), then James Scott is easily the Crown Prince. His pieces are among the most virtuoso-like and satisfying in the repertoire.
As we moved toward the half-time break, ten-year-old Ruby Fradkin was eager to perform next, which she did amazingly well as usual. Her set included a syncopated "Alouette," two staples of classic ragtime, "Swipsey" and "Cascades" and Leadbelly's "Pick a Bale of Cotton," a crowd-pleaser she recently added to her playlist. In the aforementioned L.A. Times article, one of the guests was quoted as saying about Ruby, "If she's this good when she's 10, just imagine how good she's going to be at 20." I wholeheartedly agree!
As the break drew to a close, Gary returned to the keys to play William Bolcom's 1971 ragtime masterpiece "Graceful Ghost."
Ron Ross, in red and white-striped vest, opened up the second half of the musicale with three of his own compositions. First, the recently-written "Sunday Serendipity Rag," (performed no doubt by request. Thanks, Ron!), then with two of his exquisite habanera works, "Sweet is the Sound," which he just finished notating, and perhaps the loveliest of all, "Mirella." Gary opined that Ron's latin-tinged works are as musically satisfying, if not more so, as any of the Terra Verde pieces that have been recently recognized as the logical evolution of American ragtime music. I'm sure there are others who would agree.
The unexpected surprise of the afternoon was an impromptu combo featuring Bill Mitchell on piano, Phil Cannon on guitar-banjo, and Don Rose on cornet. Though they never played together before, the three provided some great entertainment with two extended numbers, first the New Orleans favorite "Sheik of Araby," then Jelly Roll Morton's "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say." Both numbers featured some great soloing, improvising and stretching out by all three musicians. Bravo, bravo, bravo!
Lee Roan then came up to play a couple of piano duets with Mr. Mitchell. First was the 1916 Spencer Williams hit "I Ain't Got Nobody (Much)," then Hello My Baby," and Henry Marshall's 1912 "Be My Little Bumblebee." Kudos to Lee for always coming to the meetings with fun and memorable tunes, and to Bill for his top-notch musicianship.
Tom Handforth came up and joked that, since he found an absence of Halloween tunes in the ragtime oeuvre, he decided to dedicate his solo performance to Veteran's Day. This he did with a bevy of patriotic tunes, all performed by memory. Fantastic! The medley of World War 1 and pre-War tunes began with "Over Here, Over There," moved to "Roses of Picardy," then segued to "Smiles," "K-K-Katy" and "Rose of No Man's Land," then to "Hinky Dinky Parlez-Vous," "Pack Up Your Troubles," "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," and "The Stars and Stripes," finally wrapping up with "Over Here, Over There." Simply put, Tom's an inspiration and we're fortunate to have him play for us!
Annette came back for a return engagement, soloing on "Boone County Rag," a Galen Wilkes-written ode to the pioneering Missouri pianist and folk-rag chronicler John "Blind" Boone. Annette plays more Wilkes pieces than anyone I've heard, and she does an excellent job on them.
Ruby took us to the home stretch with another set that included some patriotic tunes, including "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "I'm a Yankee-Doodle Dandy." She also played "You Are My Sunshine" and another Leadbelly tune, "Ha-Ha This-a-Way."
Yuko put a bookend on three-plus hours of great music with a beautiful rendition of our theme number, Scott Joplin's "Rose Leaf Rag." With that, the gavel fell on another memorable meeting. If you weren't able to join us and share in the excitement, mark your calendar for the last Sunday in November the 26th at 2:30 PM. We're looking forward to seeing you there.
ROSE LEAF RAGTIME CLUB BUSINESS MEETING OF OCT. 29
Reported by Ron Ross
Before the regular music portion of the Oct. 29 meeting, about 18 or 20 people attended the business meeting. We decided to donate to the Old Town Music Hall's relocation fund on the condition that if they wind up not moving, we get the money back. Darrell Woodruff agreed to write a letter on behalf of the club pledging at least $500 under the above conditions. Darrell also agreed to update the Rose Leaf website. A budget of $165 was approved to subsidize Something Doing for the next three months until renewals start coming in and it becomes self-supporting, hopefully. We decided not to purchase the piano George McClellan and Lee Roan had restored (at a cost of $400-600) but to allot $1500 as a budget for getting a top-notch upright piano to replace the green piano. Gary Rametta and others will start a search and report back via Email if they find something worth looking into. There will be a December meeting, despite the last Sunday falling on the 31st. Some won't be able to attend but a show of hands (both at the business meeting and at the regular meeting) indicated a decent potential turnout - at least 30.
Future discussions should address Something Doing and its financial situation: (a) increase the annual subscription rate; (b) eliminate some of the free copies that go to "important people" who do not regularly attend; (c) increase "donation" at the door to $3 where it had been for a long time until about a year ago. Treasury had about $2700 before paying Bill Mitchell for the Something Doing shortfall and before receipts from the Oct. 29 meeting.
DICK/TRACY AT THE OLD TOWN MUSIC HALL
Reviewed by Bill Mitchell
When Yvonne and I left the Rose Leaf Club meeting in Pasadena the evening of October 29 it was raining, but that wasn't about to deter us from hitting the Pasadena freeway toward another destination, the Old Town Music Hall ion El Segundo. Richard Zimmerman and Tracy Doyle were scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. appearance. Unfortunately, we got into a wrong lane in L.A. and found ourselves in Chinatown. This cost us fifteen minutes trying to get back onto a main artery, and it appeared we would be late. Well, we were - but not to worry. When we found our seats the proprietor, Bill Coffman, having possibly just completed a short sermon, was introducing Richard Z. The evening's program cut a wide swathe through the ragtime literature, including classic, folk, and novelty.
Dick opened with a florid version of Joplin's "Pineapple Rag," followed by "Something Doing," composed by Scott Hayden with the collaboration of Scott Joplin. Dick's interpretation included some intriguing variations in thirds.
Things then took a tack toward less familiar material. "I'm Alabama Bound," by Robert Hoffman, was published in New Orleans in 1909. It's first theme was a "floating folk song" of the Mississippi Valley. Dick told us about a singer/composer named Art Gillham, an early crooner who was on the first electrical recording in 1924. He was billed as "The Whispering Pianist," because of his rather light voice. Dick played a medley of songs associated with him: "Whispering," "If We Can't Be Sweethearts, Let's Be Friends," and "Hesitation Blues." "Doctor Brown," by Fred Irvin, was a fox trot from 1914. It came across as a catchy rag with unusual syncopation. No Zimmerman concert would be complete without "12th Street Rag," by Euday Bowman. After discussing the itinerant Texan, Dick played this big-time hit as the composer wrote it (pretty much, anyway), including the seldom-heard first strain.
The first non-Joplin rag published by John Stark was "Manhattan Rag,: by one Ted Brownold. This folksy number of 1901 was not named after the New York island, but the town of Manhattan, Kansas
Ragging the classics was once very popular, though the practice undoubtedly tweaked the longhairs. (For you youngsters, this was a term we used 50 years ago for classical musicians. It lost its validity when all the rock musicians let their hair grow longer than any known classicist did.) Borrowing some ideas from Franz Liszt, Julius Lenzberg had a big hit with his "Hungarian Rag" back in 1913. This Tin-Pan-Alley effort sold a million copies, it is said.
"Sweet Dreams of Youth" doesn't sound like a rag title, but its appealing melodies and syncopation qualified it for inclusion in Zimmerman's 1975 ragtime folio, A Tribute to Scott Joplin and the Giants of Ragtime. Its composer, George English, was from Joplin, Missouri.
The prolific Charles L. Johnson of Kansas City was represented by one of his later, lesser-known pieces, "The Pink Poodle." It incorporated various rhythms, including tango.
E. R. Whitlow, a St. Louis orchestra leader, was the composer of an obscure John Stark publication, "Schultzmeyer Rag, a Yiddisher Novelty," which featured unusual syncopations in a minor key.
Just before intermission Dick played "The Turkey Trot." I have it in my notes that this was a Henry Lodge composition, but Rags and Ragtime attributes it to Ribe Danmark, while Henry Lodge gets credit for "Oh You Turkey."
Opening the second half, Dick played "World's Fair Rag," by Harvey Babcock, ostensibly anticipating the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
Dick performed a second Charlie Johnson rag, "Teasing the Cat," one of the composer's later efforts
My notes, taken in a dark theater, are skimpy and incomplete for the next piece, "S.O.S. Musician's Distress." It was a 1919 oddity by F. W. Bradshaw, published by John Stark in St. Louis. I didn't catch what its distinction was.
Dick pointed out that ragtime songs were always more popular than the instrumentals. To give us a sampling of this genre, he introduced his wife, the talented vocalist Tracy Doyle. Dick accompanied her on the Bosendorfer as she led off with "Give Me the Good Old Days," by Egbert Van Alstyne and Gus Kahn, followed by a 1904 song entitled "I'm Going Back Back Back to Baltimore." Ms. Doyle continued with what she termed an "opera house medley," which included "Ida," "My Navajo," "Meet Me in St. Louis," "Yama Yaama Man," "Harrigan, That's Me," and "Loading Up the Mandy Lee." Ms. Doyle, as always, gave a dynamic, appealing performance.
Zimmerman's concluding segment featured music of the piano roll era, notably the late teens and 1920's, honoring the 100th anniversary of the QRS ("Quality Reigns Supreme") piano roll company. QRS is still in business, releasing rolls from its factory in Buffalo, N.Y.
Sometimes the pieces written for the piano rolls were unpublished, as was the case with Charley Straight's "Black Jack Rag," a characteristic novelty number that was new to me. Like Straight, Max Kortlander was a well-known piano roll composer/performer. His 1922 "Huntin' the Ball" was also unpublished. Dick went into a piano rollish mode for these performances.
Pete Wendling was another of the piano roll artists. Not only a spectacular pianist, he was also the writer of several rather well known popular songs. As the penultimate number of the evening, Dick chose Wendling's "Take Your Girlie to the Movies," from 1919. Accompanying Dick was Bill Coffman on the Mighty Wurlitzer. As a closer this duo played the ever-popular "Black and White Rag."
As always, Dick and Tracy provided an entertaining evening. Dick's piano style continues to be imaginative, powerful, and distinctive. His patter between numbers was amusing and informative. Tracy engagingly presented some of the vocal gems of the ragtime years.
BOB MILNE AT THE OLD TOWN MUSIC HALL (11/5/00)
Reviewed by Bill Mitchell
Like Dick Zimmerman, Bob Milne is one of this country's foremost ragtime concertizers. Both men have unique styles that are immediately recognizable, and both are fountains of ragtime lore, which they enjoy sharing with their audiences.
Milne (pronounced as one syllable, by the way) opened his program with a few remarks about ragtime origins.
The style can be traced back as far as 1840 or so, according to Milne, whose first selection of the evening was a folk song from the 1880's, "Carrie's Gone to Kansas City," a charming little melody that Blind Boone used years later in one of his published rag medleys.
Milne took a few minutes to talk about Scott Joplin and the milieu where he performed as a pianist. He was in Chicago at the time of the 1893 World's Fair, but most of the ragtime pianists did not play on the fairgrounds but in the saloons of the city. Joplin met the great bandmaster John Philip Sousa in Chicago, according to Milne.
To illustrate the influence of banjo music on the development of ragtime Milne played "Plantation Echoes," written by Joseph Northrup at the age of 65, incorporating some of the banjo strains he heard in his youth, probably pre-Civil War days.
Milne then discussed the fabulous black pianist, Blind Boone, who concertized extensively during his career. This virtuoso with a phenomenal ear made one piano roll in 1901, consisting of variations of "When You and I Were Young, Maggie." Milne's own remarkable ear enabled him to reproduce this number as played by Blind Boone. So busy and intricate was the arrangement that it sounded as if the player had three or four hands instead of the standard two.
A sampling of barrelhouse piano came next, with a description of the seedy joints that gave the style its name. Milne illustrated the style by whipping out a powerful boogie.
My favorite performance of the evening was a gentle yet raggy rendition of Charles Hunter's "Queen of Love." Milne says he plays everything by ear to avoid boredom. Creativity and taste were particularly in evidence here.
"Maple Leaf Rag" was Scott Joplin's contribution to the evening. In discussing it, Milne mentioned that the immensely popular Black vaudevillian Bert Williams was on the cover of the original Sedalia edition of this historic number.
"How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm" in the manner of a player piano brought the first half of the program to a close.
After discussing his long and often amusing career as a "saloon pianist," Milne played an extended medley such as those with which he used to regale the customers: "If I Could Be with You One Hour Tonight," "Ragtime Nightingale," "Charmaine," "a slow blues, a fast boogie, then in a minor key came a tune I couldn't identify, capped with a rousing "12th Street Rag."
The popular rag song, "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," was published in 1912. We were told how that famous steamboat was involved in a historic Mississippi River race with the Natchez back in 1870. Milne got steamed up playing this number.
James P. Johnson's ragtime waltz, "Eccentricity," was featured next, followed by a Bob Milne original, "Water Witch Rag." Bob Ault's "Flat Creek Rag" then brought a piquant Ozark flavor to the program.
Nearing the end of the evening, Milne invited the audience to participate in a question and answer period, as is his wont. This brought forth several good questions on ragtime and its performance that he fielded well.
Winding things up he played a tongue-in-cheek barn-burner which he called "Le Overture to Le Grande Rodent." Starting in a ponderous Beethoven manner, he took a vaguely familiar theme through several transformations, winding up in ragtime. As "Le Overture" unfolded, it revealed itself to be nothing more than the Mickey Mouse Club song.
To save space, we are not running the lengthy list of websites as we have in the past. Instead, for a list of informative ragtime websites, visit the Rose leaf Ragtime Club's webpage at http://roseleafrag.tripod.com/links.html
You can access the L. A. Times article Gary mentioned in his review above through this address.
Also, Darrell Woodruff has updated the archives of Something Doing, and you can call up the back issues at http://roseleafrag.tripod.com/archive.html
CONTINUING GIGS AND UPCOMING EVENTS
Brad Kay Sunday afternoons, 2-4 p.m. at The Unurban, 3301 W. Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica.
Jerry Rothschild Fri. and Sat., 7-10 p.m. at Curley's Restaurant, corner Willow & Cherry, Signal Hill. (562) 424-0018. Thurs., 6-9:30 p.m., European Place (German-Italian restaurant), 16258 Whittier Blvd., Corner First Ave.) Whittier. (562) 927-3683
Nov. 24-26 San Diego Dixieland Jazz Festival, Town and Country Hotel, 500 Hotel Circle. N., San Diego. For Details, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone (800) 772-8527.
Friday, Jan. 12, 2001 8 p.m. Jelly Roll! (with Morton Gunnar Larsen, piano, and Vernel Bagneris, vocals) Saturday, Jan. 13, 3 p.m Lobero Theater, Santa Barbara. Call (805) 963-0761 and 8 p.m.
For Ragtime Radio listings go to
Editor: Bill Mitchell (714) 528-1534 FAX (714) 223-3886 E-mail email@example.com