JANUARY 2001 NUMBER 57
Rose Leaf Ragtime Club December Meeting (12/31/2000)
In Memory of Bob "Ragtime Bob" Bramhall
Reported by Gary Rametta
Happy New Year!
The Rose Leaf Ragtime Club of Pasadena said goodbye to 2000 with another fun-filled, foot-stomping celebration of America's musical heritage. A couple of months ago, we nearly voted not to hold a December meeting because some said, "nobody would show." Nobody would show? Well, once again, the banquet room at the IHOP was filled to capacity with guests, and the afternoon's music-which featured some new performers and lots of musical surprises-was received with much enthusiasm.
As the crowd began to get settled, Yuko Shimazaki opened the musicale with a graceful rendition of our club's theme number, Scott Joplin's "Rose Leaf Rag" from 1907. This piece shows Joplin in a legato and pensive mood, with a first section that seems influenced by both Mozart and Debussy. The second and third sections feature beautiful melodies, and Joplin brings the piece to a satisfying conclusion with very nice use of passing, diminished and minor chords.
Gary Rametta welcomed the attendees and mentioned the passing of our good friend and club member Bob Bramhall. Ragtime Bob was an avid supporter of ragtime and our club. We are saddened by his passing and send our prayers to him and his family.
Gary dedicated his performance of the James Scott classic "Grace and Beauty " in remembrance of Bob.
Nancy Kleier came up and introduced us to the works of a contemporary ragtime composer from Argentina named Ruben Villaverde, who she met last fall at the West Coast Ragtime Festival. She performed two of his works, first "Centennial Rag" in honor of the new millennium, then "Ragtime Recuerdos (Ragtime Memories)." Both were well-constructed and sounded like authentic early 20th Century Missouri rags. Nancy did a nice job on both. She closed her first set with a staple of her New Year's repertoire, John Philip Sousa's "Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company March" from 1924. This selection was quite appropriate for the occasion, with its inclusion of "Auld Lang Syne."
Next was Ron Ross, who gave us several minutes of sheer delight. His first performance was a piano/vocal number he composed in 2000 called "Good Thing Going." In it, Ron laments-with wry commentary-of love gone wrong. The song has a foot-tapping, ragged beat, while the melody shows touches of Charleston influence. By request, he then played an oldie-but-goodie he wrote and recorded about 20 years ago; a country-flavored tune called "Studio Sensation." This hilarious song is a true account of Ron's experience in the studio when the producer decided that Ron's purposely off-key vocal delivery-rather than a professional singer-was just what the recording called for. "Studio Sensation" drew huge applause. Ron finished off his set with his most recent rag, "Sunday Serendipity."
Talented pianist Les Soper was our next performer. Les brought with him British vocalist Joe Segal, a fine gent who's partnered with him for the past 10 years in a vaudeville act. While Les played some great accompaniment on piano, Joe strutted up front and down the aisles, belting out popular standards from yesteryear like "Bill Bailey (Won't You Please Come Home), "Somebody Stole My Gal," "Don't Bring Lulu," and "Is it True What They Say About Dixie?" Joe is a great showman, with a terrific voice that strongly projects and a true gift for entertaining an audience. Their set was a real treat!
Next was Ruby Fradkin, who departed from her ragtime playing to perform some popular tunes from the '20's, '30's and '40's. First was a well-played medley of "You're a Grand 'Ol Flag," and "I'm a Yankee Doodle-Dandy." Next was one of her recent favorites, folk singer Leadbelly's "Ha-ha This'a Way." Ruby demonstrated good technique on this piece, with strong right- and left-hand work, and facility with key changes. She concluded with an abbreviated syncopated version of "Alouette."
Guitar-banjoist Phil Cannon, tuba player Chuck Rimmer and Ruby closed out the first half of the trio versions of "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Babyface," which featured some enjoyable soloing by Phil, and "Tom Dooley." Ruby is getting more comfortable in a multi-instrumental setting and kept the guys on their toes by modulating to different key signatures.
Yuko Shimazaki opened the second half of the show with a slow, elegant and soulful rendition of Joplin's "Solace-A Mexican Serenade." This is a new addition to her repertoire, and she's quickly mastering it.
Gary returned to the keys to play "Something Doing," a happy, upbeat rag written by Joplin and his student/protégé Scott Hayden in 1903.
Les Soper came back up for an encore piano solo performance of "Rose Leaf Rag." His rendition was crisp, upbeat and exuded a genuine ragtime feel. For his last piece, Les asked Joe Segal to come back up and join him in a piano and vocal version of "Ballin' the Jack." The audience thoroughly enjoyed Joe's presentation and I'm certain is looking forward to having him return to entertain us some more!
The great music continued in the form of a New Orleans combo-style performance by trumpeter Don Rose (a former player with Turk Murphy in San Francisco), clarinetist Jay Stock, Chuck Rimmer, Phil Cannon and Ruby Fradkin of "When the Saints Go Marching In." In addition to soloing, Chuck, Ruby and Phil provided solid rhythmic support for Jay and Don's fantastic, advanced improvisations. Next was "Smile," followed by "When You're Smiling."
Nancy Kleier's second set featured a theme of things to do on New Year's Eve. First, put the baby to sleep. That is, with a fox trot, "Cradle Rock," from 1916. The left hand of this rag employs a back-and-forth figure that signifies the cradle rocking. Next, keep yourself warm with a nice hot beverage. How about "Hot Chocolate Rag (1908)," which features a very catchy first strain. Finally, don't forget to bundle up from head to toe to stay cozy; "The Foot Warmer (1914)."
Ron Ross took the mike to make a few thank-yous to several of the folks who've volunteered their support to keep the club growing, flourishing and visible. Then he welcomed pianist Doug Haise, an infrequent performer from Carlsbad. Doug performed three Joplin pieces that were part of his concert at the Indianapolis Ragtime Festival last fall. First was "Paragon Rag (1909, from Joplin's New York years)," then the hauntingly beautiful Joplin/Louis Chauvin collaboration "Heliotrope Bouquet (1907)," and finally, a molto-vivace performance of "Elite Syncopations (1902)." Doug's playing was strong and full of verve and his commentary was informative and well-spoken. His set was very well received. We hope his schedule permits him to join us more often.
The club next welcomed our senior pianist of the day, Tom Handforth. Tom's gentlemanly style, self-effacing manner, smiling eyes and dexterous fingers certainly belie his 85 years. A former circus pianist, he also has loads of talent. Tom played a medley of tunes, including "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Everyone was genuinely appreciative of Tom's performance.
Phil Cannon returned to perform two solos on his guitar-banjo. First was James Scott's "Ragtime Oriole," then club member Ron Ross' "Digital Rag." Phil did a marvelous job on both - it's a treat to hear his repertoire continue to expand and his technique improve each time he plays.
Ron Ross and Alan Bramer followed, tickling the crowd with piano and vocal duets of a couple oldies, "Hello Ma' Ragtime Gal," and "Rock-a-bye Baby With a Dixie Melody.
With the show coming to a close, Yuko Shimazaki took over the keys with a sensitive and beautifully played dedication to Bob Bramhall, Frederic Chopin's "L'Adieu" waltz.
Ron and Alan (The Great Bramanovich) performed one final number in Bramano-speak; "April Showers." Gary then joined Doug in a warp-speed rendition of Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," after which Nancy put the wraps on another successful meeting with a sing-along version of "Auld Lang Syne."
The year 2000 was an unqualified success for us. Attendance really blossomed, we welcome many new regular and guest players and we're getting a new piano. 2001 promises to be even brighter! We hope to see you at our next meeting in Pasadena on Sunday, January 28th at 2:30 PM…
WEST COAST RAGTIME FESTIVAL 2000
Reported by Fred Hoeptner
The fourteenth annual West Coast Ragtime Festival, and the fourth to be held in Sacramento under the aegis of the West Coast Ragtime Society, opened Friday, November 17, for three days at the Red Lion Sacramento Inn. According to festival director Merv Graham, attendance was about the same as last year, with about 600 total badges sold. As usual, the festival ran concurrent performances for listening in three rooms and continuous dancing in the hotel ballroom.
Performers included pianists Mimi Blais, Frank French, Sue Keller, David Thomas Roberts, the Tichenor family trio (Trebor, daughter Virginia and her husband Marty Eggers) and Dick Zimmerman, all familiar names to ragtime fans. Others perhaps less familiar included Paul Asaro, a stride specialist from Seattle; Alan Ashby, from the Sacramento area; Yvonne Cloutier from Scottdale, Arizona, a music teacher who formed the Lake Superior Ragtime Society in 1984; Nan Bostic, grand niece and biographer of ragtime composer Charles N. Daniels; Brian Holland, classically trained and named three-time world old-time piano-playing champion at the annual contest held in Decatur, Illinois; Eric Marchese from Tustin, occasional performer at the Rose Leaf Club; Robbie Rhodes from Etiwanda, ragtime and jazz pianist with the former South Frisco Jazz Band who has performed often at the Old Town Music Hall; and Nick Taylor of Colorado Springs, who is rapidly becoming a favorite on the festival circuit. Teen-age pianists Neil Blaze, Marit Johnson and Elise Crane were audience favorites.
The Swiss Ragtimers, a duo of pianist Martin Jager and Felix Furher, washboard and miscellaneous percussion (including Swiss cowbells), received enthusiastic response. Although not ignoring classic ragtime, they featured the compositions and arrangements of Winifred Atwell, British ragtime and boogie pianist of the 1950s. Alan Rea and Sylvia O'Neil, a piano duo playing at a single piano, presented an outstanding Gottschalk program. Tom Brier from Merced, a spirited pianist whose specialty is reading rare ragtime scores as if he had known them all his life, performed such obscurities as Chippewa Rag by Myrtle Hoyt, Bluegrass Beauties by Kaiser, Peanuts Frolic by Phillip Severin, Crimson Rambler Rag by Harry Tierney, Boiled Owl Rag by Margaret Wooden, and Black Feather by Irene Giblin in addition to many compositions of his own and of Eric Marchese. New York's Terry Waldo entertained in his inimitable manner (Nagasaki as a sing-along yet!), as did Ian and Regina Whitcomb. Pianist Brian Keenan attended as a guest and filled several vacancies in the schedule. Dancers and listeners in the elegant ballroom were treated to the music of the nine-piece Pacific Coast Ragtime Orchestra with thrush Helen Burns, the six-piece Porcupine Ragtime Ensemble, the seven-piece Humboldt Ragtime Band and the Fresno High School Band.
The festival featured a full schedule of seminars. Rea and O'Neil profiled "Gottschalk - his Life and his Music." Irene Ujda (Mademoiselle Irene), a paralegal in daily life, presented a lecture on copyright law, largely as it applies to contemporary use of music from the ragtime era. Nan Bostick presented "Harry P. Guy and Detroit Ragtime," illustrated with numerous photographs of that city from the ragtime era. Ian Whitcomb played some interesting and obscure recordings, largely non-ragtime but including syncopated tunes played on the ukulele and the steel guitar, in "From Rags to Rock - The 1920s to 1965." Tex Wyndham reviewed "The Music of Walter Donaldson," and Sue Keller "The Music of Charles L. Johnson."
The Saturday night "special show," "A Celebration of Women in Ragtime," emceed by Mimi Blais sporting a straw hat, sport coat, pants and mustache, filled the venue and was a real audience pleaser. Among others Marit Johnson and Elise Crane duetted on Blake's Chevy Chase, Virginia Tichenor played her father's Bucksnort Stomp, Mimi played Craig's Romantic Rag, Petra Sullivan (piano) and Julia Riley (flute) played That Cheery Rag, and pianist Dana Chrisman played Scott's Grace and Beauty. The climax was a bit of interplay between Mimi and Sue Keller. Sue accompanied by Mimi sang the words to Joplin's Easy Winners vaudeville style and then snatched Mimi's mustache after which Mimi took off. Sue played a rag, and then duetted with a returning Mimi in elegant dress on French's Belle of Louisville.
The WCRS has a tradition of excellent planning and organization, and this year was no exception. Hope to see all of you there next year.
For those of you on the Internet, you can find a list of informative ragtime websites by visiting the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club's webpage at http://roseleafrag.tripod.com/links.html
For back issues of Something Doing you can access the archives 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 and Cherry, Signal Hill.
Gremoli (New Orleans style jazz band) Thursday, Feb. 15, 2001 (two shows: 8:30 p.m and 10:00 p.m.
$10 cover), The Jazz Spot at The Los Feliz Restaurant,
2138 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles (tel 323-666-8666).
The Night Blooming Jazzmen This traditional dixieland band will be performing a concert and hymn
sing-along at 8 p.m. on Mardi Gras, Tuesday, February 27, 2001 at the First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica. Also included is an
optional pancake dinner at 6:30 to the first 200 people who purchase
tickets. The church is located at 1008 Eleventh Street, Santa Monica.
Advance tickets are available from the church office (310) 393-8258
or at the door. General admission $10, seniors $8. Plenty of free parking
across the street.
Mondays, 9-10 p.m. The Ragtime Machine, KUSF-FM 90.3, San Francisco. Host: David Reffkin.
Sundays, 8-10 p.m. KSBR-FM 88.5, Mission Viejo. Host: Jeff Stone.
The Jan./Feb. issue of Westways, the magazine of the Automobile Club of Southern California, contains a nifty article entitled "Vital Organ: El Segundo's Old Town Music Hall Puts a Bang in Silent Movies." It sports three photographs in color: Bill Coffman at the console of the Mighty Wurlitzer, the interior of the theater, and the two Bills (Coffman and Fields) who keep the enterprise going.
And speaking of OTMH, the latest news from Bill Coffman is good. The theater will remain in operation in El Segundo, and a schedule of events for 2001 is being arranged. We will assume that ragtime will predominate as it has in the past. Viva OTMH!
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Have you been watching the Public Television (KCET-Channel 28) series entitled Jazz? Ken Burns's ten-part
history or the music, which chronicles the development of this "uniquely American art form," has been fascinating so far. As I write this, the story has reached the swing era and has five episodes to go. I'm devoting some space to this series because I've noticed that most ragtimers are also interested in jazz -- particularly early jazz -- and the bands that are keeping it alive today. (See "Gremoli" and "Night Blooming Jazzmen" on the previous page.) Pianist Jess Stacy once defined jazz as "syncopated syncopation," and how could ragtimers resist that?
At any rate, there is a smattering of ragtime and stride piano in the first two or three episodes. Joplin and classic ragtime are very briefly mentioned, but there is a segment on James Reese Europe, the prominent black bandleader, composer of "Castle House Rag," whose band was recording ragtime prior to World War I. Jelly Roll Morton is given a fair amount of attention. There are movie clips of Willie "The Lion" Smith and Thomas "Fats" Waller in action. Duke Ellington plays his early "Soda Fountain Rag." Fascinating stuff.
Some critics have been, well, highly critical of the episodes thus far, pointing out inaccuracies, anachronisms, omissions, and irrelevancies. For some heated discussion and varying opinions, access the bulletin board of The Mississippi Rag web page at <www.mississippirag.com>. As I see it, Jazz is a rare and exciting treat in spite of the often valid criticisms that have been proffered.
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Wouldn't it be nice to see a similar TV documentary on ragtime? While that day may well come, did you know that such a project (on a comparatively modest scale) has already been done? It was in November of 1960 that NBC-TV Project Twenty aired a special called "Those Ragtime Years." I reviewed it in Paul Affeldt's Jazz Report (Vol. 1, No. 10) and will possibly reprint it in a future issue of Something Doing.
In brief, this program was hosted and narrated by Hoagy Carmichael in his characteristic folksy, down-home
manner. The hour began with a pianola rolling out Joplin's "Original Rags." Hoagy commented that we were listening to "real ragtime," and that when he was a boy in Indiana ragtime was "…a continuous soundtrack to the American ear."
The geographical and cultural origins of the music were traced, including mountain ballads, river influences, Afro-American church music, marches and so on. Behind Hoagy's narration, you could hear such classics as
"Grace and Beauty" and "Sunflower Slow Drag" played live off stage. Several sheet music covers of great rags were flashed successively on the screen.
The ragtime/jazz pianist Ralph Sutton was featured at an upright playing "The Cascades," as it might have been performed at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. Another sequence showed appropriately costumed dancers
performing an abbreviated version of Joplin's "Ragtime Dance," with Hoagy delivering the descriptive patter that Joplin included in the score. The Wilbur De Paris band played a rousing "Bill Bailey."
A section of the program was devoted to the Tin Pan Alley phase of ragtime. Hoagy sang an obscure Percy Wenrich novelty song, and there was a tribute to Irving Berlin, featuring some of his early pop tunes showing ragtime influences.
Near the end of the hour Eubie Blake, who was a youthful 77 at the time, played his "Ragtime Rag."
The hour ended with a four-piano version of "Maple Leaf Rag," performed by Ralph Sutton, Eubie Blake,
Hoagy Carmichael, and Dick Wellstood. As might have been expected, they took it as a barn burner, and the De Paris band came in on the last strain.
It would be delightful if this program could be aired again, forty years later, but that probably won't happen.
I seem to remember reading somewhere that this hour was not preserved, or that the tapes were lost.
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If you are a pianist looking for some contemporary rags to play, you might be interested in subscribing to the Lake Superior Ragtimer, the newsletter of the Lake Superior Ragtime Society, Inc. This publication often includes the score of a rag of comparatively recent vintage. In recent months such items as "Harbor Rag" by Glenn Jenks, "Opalescence" by Hal Isbitz, and "The Last of the Ragtime Pioneers" by Galen Wilkes have appeared. If you want to see what's available, try the society's E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to subscribe, please make check or money order payable in US funds to LSRS and mail to Lake Superior Ragtime Society, Inc., 4361 E. White Pine Trail, Superior, WI 54880. Telephone 715-394-4319.
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That's about it for this issue. Renewals have been coming in, for which we thank you. The expiration date appears over your address, so you will know when it's time to renew.
Bill Mitchell, Editor (714) 528-1534 Fax (714) 223-3886 E-mail <email@example.com