NOVEMBER 2001; NUMBER 67
Rose Leaf Ragtime Club October Meeting (10/28/2001)
Reported by Gary Rametta
Well, we’re close to putting the ribbon around another year’s worth of Rose Leaf Ragtime Club meetings. It’s truly been a bountiful year for us, and all I can say is THANK YOU. To all of you who take part in our get-togethers by coming out every month and supporting us, Thank You. To all the performers who continue to cultivate your musical talent, amaze us with your artistry, and keep the ragtime spirit alive, Thank You.
The continued success of our club causes me to reflect on our founder, P.J. Schmidt, whom I miss dearly. The Rose Leaf club was his brainchild, his labor of love. Phil’s generosity, compassion and dedication to this unique American art form kept us going when it seemed like we were hanging from a thread. There were other selfless contributors whose volunteer efforts were also integral to our club’s growth. Among those fondly remembered is Gus Willmorth, the former editor of this newsletter and audio chronicler of years of meetings. Also, John Roache, whose pioneering work in MIDI played a major role in spreading ragtime over the Internet and helped increase our club’s visibility.
Other club members who’ve made and continue to make vital contributions include Bill Mitchell, Ron Ross, Darrell Woodruff, Becky Todd, Bob Kirby, Lee Roan, Eric Marchese and Fred Hoeptner.
When I visited P.J. in the hospital before he passed away, I promised him that I would continue his work and keep the club going. Of course, this would have been impossible if not for the involvement, encouragement and support of all Rose Leaf Ragtime Club members. In this time of Thanksgiving, I express my sincere gratitude to each and every one of you.
Our October meeting began with the sounds of one of the hallmark compositions of ragtime: James Scott’s 1909 classic rag “Grace and Beauty,” played by Gary Rametta.
Bill Mitchell continued with a wonderfully-played piece by Indianan May Aufderheide, “A Totally Different Rag” from 1910. Next was James Scott’s “Quality Rag,” a 1911 composition in which the 26-year-old Scott’s pianistic and rag-writing brilliance were in full bloom.
Bob Pinsker introduced us to some works by Ohio-born ragtimer Clarence Jones. Jones lived most of his life in Chicago, where he was a highly regarded pianist and teacher (one of his students was blues pianist Jimmy Blythe). Bob’s first selection was Jones’ 1913 “Thanks for the Lobster,” (subtitled “A One-step, Turkey trot, Fox trot, Tango, Two-step). It featured a danceable rhythm, humorous vocal callouts and imaginative piano figurings. Next was “Modulations,” an ambitious 1923 composition that showcased Jones’ novelty rag-writing skill.
Following Bob was guitar/banjoist Phil Cannon, who gave us a marvelous version of Joplin’s masterpiece “Gladiolus Rag,” then a yeoman’s effort on Luckey Roberts’ difficult “Junkman Rag.”
Ron Ross came up next, announcing the release of his CD “Ragtime Renaissance” and an upcoming appearance on radio station KSBR’s ragtime show hosted by club member Jeff Stone. Ron played two original compositions from his CD, first “Joplinesque—A Gringo Tango,” then “Sweet is the Sound.” Both are lovely works—pretty, singing melodies accentuated by a habanera rhythm.
Next, we were pleased to introduce our surprise guest of the day, Nan Bostick, a nationally known ragtime author, raconteur and performer. Nan is currently researching and writing a book on the history of ragtime in Detroit, to coincide with that city’s 300th birthday. Her first performance was of a rather obscure work by Louise Gustin, a Motown music educator, “X.N.Tric Rag,” from the early 1900s. Next was “Hiawatha,” a popular 1901 “Indian” tune penned by her Grand-Uncle Charles N. Daniels. Daniels was a composer/arranger/publisher from Kansas City who worked in St. Louis and eventually settled in Detroit, where he worked for the Jerome H. Remick Company, the most prolific rag-publishing house in U.S. history. Daniels is noted for bringing to market two seminal ragtime compositions, Scott Joplin’s “Original Rags” and “Dill Pickles,” Charles L. Johnson’s smash hit from 1906-07. Nan closed her set with a charming rag from Detroiter Harry P. Guy, “Pearl of the Harem.” Nan’s playing was a total delight; her touch, phrasing, expressiveness and interpretations were first-rate.
George McClellan stepped up to solo on an eminently listenable rendition of the 1922 Braham/Furber staple “Limehouse Blues.” Next, he premiered an original, untitled rag that came to him earlier that morning as he popped out of bed. I’ll call it “Early Morning Rag,” which seems apt. George improvised on its two themes, the first being a parade of eighth-note runs in the ragtime tradition, while the second theme was colored with some really thoughtful harmonies that seemed to draw inspiration from late-night, smoky-roomed, solitary exploration at the keys.
Stan Long entertained us next with Joplin’s last-published rag, “Magnetic Rag.” Unlike the majority of Joplin’s rags, this one consistently changes moods from one section to the next. It is Joplin’s most personal statement, and one of his most difficult to interpret. Stan followed up with a new addition to his repertoire, a three-section rag by George Cobb called “Feedin' the Kitty,” which Stan learned after coming across the piece on the Internet as a MIDI file, downloading it and working on it. Sounded good!
Nancy Kleier chose a Halloween-themed set featured two little-known works by New Yorker Ford Dabney, composer of the club favorite “Porto Rico” which Bill Mitchell sometimes plays. This time, Nancy chose to associate the rags with the trick-or-treat costumes worn by our mythical ragtime couple, Raggedy Alfred and Raggedy Agnes. First was “Oh, You Angel,” (1911) with a nod to Agnes’ halo-and-wings outfit. Alfred’s horns-and-pitchfork costume invoked “Oh, You Devil,” (1909). It seemed to me that the “Angel” number was more dissonant, with ominous-sounding, two-handed descending chromatic scales. “Devil” sounded much more diatonic, thus pleasing to the ear. Were the titles accidentally switched somewhere along the line, or was my hearing off-base that day?
11 year-old Ruby Fradkin took over the keys, noting that it was two years ago this month that she first played at the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club. She thanked everyone for their support and encouragement. Ruby drew unanimous cheers from the roomful of guests. It’s been a privilege and joy to witness her incredible advancement in just two short years. For her set, Ruby performed the first three sections of Joplin’s 1902 “Elite Syncopations,” quite excellently. Next, she played Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” which gave her the opportunity to stretch out her growing improvisational skills.
As our brief intermission came to a close, Yuko Shimazaki soloed on two Joplin numbers. First, his exquisite “Nonpareil” rag which she played beautifully, then his masterful “Fig Leaf Rag—A High Class Rag,” in which she was joined by Phil Cannon for an impromptu duet. Again, her playing and delivery were outstanding, and Phil’s solid accompaniment added breadth and body to the overall sound.
Gary Rametta returned to the keys with a new addition to his play-list, Eubie Blake’s magnificent “Eubie’s Classical Rag.” The crowd seemed to really like the piece, even though Gary hasn’t quite gotten the piece entirely under his fingers. Yours truly resolves to continue working on this piece, and will enlist Yuko’s help in smoothing out some of the tough-to-finger phrases.
Yuko was invited back up by popular demand. This time she chose a rag-tango from Argentina, circa 1900: “Velada Criolla” (Veiled Creole Woman) by Domingo Perez. It’s a solemn, gently flowing story that combines European classical, tango rhythm and a three-part rag-like structure. As usual, Yuko’s touch, tempo, phrasing and dynamics were marvelous.
Next, we delved into a series of thoroughly enjoyable piano-vocal duets. First was the husband/wife team of Judy and Bob Pinsker, who gave us “Crazy for That Kind of Love” and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Judy’s vocal delivery and presence were really engaging, while Bob contributed some great keyboard accompaniment and soloing.
Bill Mitchell then returned to the keys, this time with enthusiastic newcomer Gwen Girvan, a local piano teacher and performer who was really tuned-in to and turned-on by the music she’d been enjoying during her first visit to our club. They hit the road running with W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” featuring soulful vocals by Gwen and great keyboard work by Bill (and Gwen as well, who dueted with Bill during his solo). They followed up with another golden-age gem, “Lazy River.” Great fun!
Following Gwen and Bill were Alan “The Great Bramanovich” Bremer on vocal and Ron Ross at the piano. They kicked off with “Put a Nickel in the Nickelodeon,” during which Gwen was so excited she rushed the stage to harmonize with Alan on the as-written and as-Bramanovized vocals. The duo then segued into “Toot-toot-Tootsie,” then finished off with “Hello My Ragtime Gal.” As usual, the Great Bramanovich was in fine form, adding a bit of levity and hilarity to the proceedings, while Ron’s piano accompaniment laid a solid rhythmic foundation and provided harmonic support. Overall, the performance had many of us in stitches.
Moving toward the close of the meeting, we continued with some piano duets. First was the ad-hoc duo of Nan Bostick and Nancy Kleier, playing Charles Daniels “Cotton Time,” then his “Borneo Rag,” which they performed vaudeville style, i.e., with physical comedy accompaniment to highlight the music. Lots of fun and very well played.
Gary Rametta and Bill Mitchell then dueted on Joplin’s “Original Rags,” followed by Bob Pinsker and Bill on George Botsford’s “Black and White Rag.” Next were Ruby, Bill and Phil, combining on a happy, folksy version of the Joplin/Marshall classic “Swipesy Cakewalk.” Gary and Bill put the wraps on the duets with the Joplin/Hayden collaboration, “Sunflower Slow Drag.”
Bob Pinsker then returned to put the bookends on another great Rose Leaf Ragtime Club meeting with a down-and-dirty Southwest rag from Dallas, circa 1914: “Majestic Rag,” by Rawls and Neel.
This month’s meeting takes place on 11/25. We’ll be focusing on Joplin rags, waltzes, marches and syncopations, so there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy. See you then!
THE NEW GROVE DICTIONARY OF JAZZ – SECOND EDITION
A Book Review by Floyd Levin
The long-awaited Second Edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, originally scheduled for release last year, has now appeared. In Three impressive hardcover volumes, with almost 3000 pages, the tome updates and doubles the size of the original edition published thirteen years ago. It is, however, priced accordingly - $550.00 compared with $295.00.
The elaborate expanded reference work covers every facet of jazz from Buddy Bolden, the first acknowledged New Orleans cornet “king” and the Crescent City’s earliest brass bands, to 1500 biographies covering musicians who came to prominence since the first edition appeared.
The 7750 articles include 2750 new entries representing the collective scholarship of over 300 experts from all parts of the world. They carefully survey and evaluate the careers of performers, producers, composers, arrangers, writers and bands.
While the abundant illustrations are mostly from the noted Frank Driggs collection, scores of photos are credited to additional photographers. Bibliographical and discographical references are also included.
Articles, covering jazz people, places, and things, date back to the earliest forms – New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, Dixieland Jazz, Traditional Jazz, Boogie-Woogie, Swing, Bop, and its derivatives. Included are: jazz terms, record labels, instruments, night clubs, films and videos, poetry, societies, festivals, archives, and libraries. Each article is painstakingly researched, and individually signed.
The new edition is again expertly edited under the firm direction of Barry Kernfield, well-known jazz authority and scholar, who also wrote hundred of the articles. His Associate Editors, Gary Kennedy and Howard Rye, additionally contributed a broad range of the biographical material.
The Grove firm claims that this is “the most comprehensive jazz reference work ever published.” It would be difficult to entirely refute that elaborate mandate
Like the first edition, however, there will probably be quibbles from pedantic readers and omissions noted. After the earlier publication, I called to the attention of Editor Barry Kernfield a list of 57 names I felt should have been included. I note that most of them now appear in the new edition including several that Kernfield commissioned me to write.
Since 1988, the initial New Grove Dictionary of Jazz has been a valuable tool occupying a handy place next to my desk for frequent referral. It has now been replaced by the second edition volumes, which, I am sure, will continue to provide substance and accuracy to my text.
THE NEW GROVE DICTIONARY OF JAZZ –SECOND EDITION in three volumes, 2935 pp, illustrated.
From: Grove’s Dictionaries, Inc., Box 2244 Williston VT 05495. Order on line from: www.grovereference.com
Sundays, 2:05-3:30 pm PT, “Syncopation Station,” KDHX St. Louis MO 88.l and www.kdhx.org; host, Jan Douglas.
Sundays, 4-6 pm PT, “Rags to Wishes.” KAZU, Pacific Grove CA 90.3 and www.kazu.org; host, Mike Schmitz.
Sundays, 8-10 pm PT, “The Ragtime Show,” KSBR Mission Viejo CA 88.5 and www.ksbr.net; host, Jeff Stone.
Mondays, 9-10 pm PT, “The Ragtime Machine,” KUSF San Francisco CA 90.3; host, David Reffkin. The KUSF stream is temporarily down because of the current dispute over licensing fees for Internet broadcasting.
Thursdays, 7-8 pm PT, “Ragtime America,” KGNU Boulder CO 88.5 and www.kgnu.org; host, Jack Rummel.
CONTINUING GIGS AND UPCOMING EVENTS
Brad Kay Sunday afternoons, 2-4 p.m. at The Unurban, 3301 W. Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica. Coffee, etc. No cover charge
Jerry Rothschild Tues. and Wed., 4:30-7:00 p.m. at Gunter’s Place, 16258 Whittier Blvd., Whittier. (562) 947-3683
Fri. and Sat., 7-10 p.m. at Curley’s Restaurant, corner Willow & Cherry, Signal Hill.
Mews and Her Fabulous Females, Dec. 2, 7 p.m. Vocal ensemble. Spanning a century of popular music. Old Town Music Hall, 140 Richmond St., El Segundo. Admission $20. Phone 310-322-2592. E-mail oldtown;firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coyote Hills Jazz Band, Dec. 9, 7 p.m. Old favorites from our yesteryears of Dixieland and jazz. Old Town Music Hall (see above).
Ragtime Trioarama, Jan. 13, 2002, 7 p.m. Robbie Rhodes, Bill Mitchell, and Bob Pinsker. Solos, duets and trios featuring ragtime and jazz piano. Old Town Music Hall (see above).
This month I am faced with a couple of problems. Because we are involved in three music festivals in November Yvonne and I will be away from home most of the month, and I am compelled to complete the newsletter much earlier than usual. Today is the fifth and we leave on the seventh. I must have Something Doing written, proofed, printed, addressed, franked and ready to mail when we return for a couple of days between the Sacramento Ragtime Festival and the San Diego Dixieland Festival. The second problem is that I have ended up with four-and-a-half pages, leaving me with a blank page and a half. Being of Scotch ancestry, I cannot bear to waste that space, so after fretting a few minutes I have decided to pad this issue with some notes I took in Sedalia, Missouri, in June of 1983 at the Scott Joplin Festival and Stamp Dedication. (Remember the Scott Joplin commemorative stamp?) This will be an incomplete account of that memorable event, but it may well be continued in the future when space permits.
SEDALIA, JUNE, 1983
I flew out of Ontario the morning of Wednesday, June 8. The plane touched down at Kansas City Airport at 1:52 p.m. Galen Wilkes, whose plane arrived an hour earlier, met me at the exit gate, and a few minutes later Paul Johnson, his friend from Oakland, arrived. I picked up the big Lincoln I had reserved at Budget, and we were on the road about 3:00 p.m.
K.C. Airport is about twenty miles north of the city itself, so the drive to Sedalia was actually about 100 miles, and took a couple of hours. The rolling Missouri countryside was green with grassland and woods, and looked quite similar to Oregon’s Willamette Valley near Salem. Galen, Paul, and I talked ragtime unremittingly all the way to Sedalia.
Arrival in Sedalia was a thrill! This is a town of 20,000, largish for Missouri, important for railroading, industry (Levi-Strauss has a plant there, for example), farming, and the Missouri State Fair, whose home it is. The outskirts were like any other prosperous and expanding community’s – fast food stores, new motels, restaurants – but when we reached the old business section, the downtown area, an ambiance of 1900 was apparent. Old brick buildings, many of them now vacant, some still used for offices and shops, caught the eye. The Bothwell Hotel, 4th and Ohio, is probably the tallest structure in town, except for the huge water tower. The seven-story Bothwell was built in 1927, and now has a faded charm reminiscent of the Alexandria Hotel in L.A. My room, #505, was smallish, and minimally satisfactory (not even a closet to hang clothes), but the price was right at $15.00 per night. When I checked into the hotel, someone was playing good classic ragtime on the second floor in the conference room. It was Paul Molens, a young man from the East, who wore a fancy red ragtime vest and arm garters everywhere during the four days of the festival. He played nicely, and had written a few original rags.
After unpacking, I had a buffet supper in the hotel restaurant on the ground floor, and then went for a walk on the quiet deserted streets of downtown Sedalia on the eve of the Joplin stamp dedication and festival. The Maple Leaf Club site on Main Street was occupied by a large open tent with a couple of hundred chairs and a platform with an upright piano and seats for the program’s participants on the morrow. All stores were closed, as it was 8:30 p.m. in the evening, though it was still light. It was eerie to see no one on the streets except for a police car in the area..
Dave Reffkin and I practiced at the Bothwell in the conference room from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. It was hard work, with many weak spots in my accompaniment. He was very patient with me, however. I was concerned with getting the material under control by the following evening’s concert. I got to bed about 11:00 p.m. Very tired!
Thursday I awoke before 6:00 a.m., too excited by the day’s prospects for more sleep. I had breakfast downstairs about 7:30 a.m. I practiced some by myself in the conference room, and then headed for the MLC site early, since I wanted to be certain of getting a seat. I took along my copy of They All Played Ragtime, in case I had some time to read. Crowds were beginning to gather on Main Street. The block on which the tent was located was closed to traffic, and it was a carnival midway of refreshment stands, souvenir tables, art displays, etc. I went to the tent and sat in back of Rudi Blesh, who was sitting up near the front. It was lucky I had brought my copy of TAPR along, for I got him to autograph it for me. He was easy to talk to. He mentioned that it was quite remarkable that John Stark, a Southerner from Shelby County, Kentucky, had gone into partnership with Joplin, a black man, on “Maple leaf Rag” in 1899. Blesh is now 85, walks with a cane, but is very sharp and alert. We talked a little about Buster Keaton, who biographer Blesh is.
The Post Office Department was doing a brisk business selling the new stamp and first day covers at tables set along the left side under the tent. All available seating under the tent was soon taken, and a crowd had to stand outside in the sun during the ceremonies, which got underway about 11:00 a.m. The Spokane Falls Brass Band (two trumpets, two French horns, and one trombone) played Joplin selections as a prelude to the ceremonies. It was a moving program, with fine tributes to Joplin, and I caught it all on tape with my new Sony Walkman stereo, a birthday gift from Yvonne. Near the end of the program Bob Darch played “Maple Leaf Rag,” and Dick Zimmerman played “The Cascades.” Four of Joplin’s relatives were present, and were introduced.
After lunch I drove out to Liberty Park, where Joplin once played cornet with the Queen City Concert Band in the late 1890s, for a run-through of the evening’s numbers with Dave Reffkin. I then came back to the hotel and practiced some more.
Kathi Backus, David Gillespie and Bill Russell were staying at the Bothwell too, and I drove them over to Liberty Park for the evening’s concert, which was produced, as were all the concerts, by Dick Zimmerman. The Spokane Falls Brass Band performed first, followed by Dave Reffkin (violin) and me. We played Lamb’s “Contentment Rag,” “Non Profit Rag” (a Reffkin original), and “A Coon’s Birthday,” by Paul Lincke, the German composer of “Glow Worm.” The Et Cetera String Band was next, a trio of violin, mandolin and guitar.
They specialize in Kansas City folk ragtime, and are delightful to hear. The St. Louis Ragtimers played several numbers in their jaunty, captivating style. They have been together for 20 years now.
(To be continued in future issues.)
Bill Mitchell, Editor (714) 528-1534; Fax (714) 223-3886 E-mail email@example.com