FEBRUARY 2002; NUMBER 70
Rose Leaf Ragtime Club January Meeting (1/27/2002)
(Reported by Gary Rametta)
About forty or so ragtimers joined us on a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon to enjoy another Rose Leaf Club meeting. Turned out to be lots of fun. All the players were able to enjoy good seat time at the keys and/or mike, and as usual, we heard some really good music.
Gary Rametta and Bill Mitchell opened the proceedings with a four-rag duet set of Scott Joplin classics: “Something Doing” (actually co-penned along with his student prodigy Scott Hayden), “Original Rags” (Joplin’s first-published rag in 1899), “Maple Leaf Rag” – the standard-bearer of all rags, and “Sunflower Slow Drag,” another Joplin/Hayden gem. Joplin is simply joyous.
Ron Ross then debuted a new composition, “Green River,” a pleasant and romantic habanera/two-step. Next was another new tune, this time one of his humorous and ironic piano/vocal numbers telling of love gone awry, called "Getting Over You.”
Gary came back up to play “The Show Me Rag – A Missouri Defiance” by St. Louis’ Trebor Tichenor. Trebor is like the modern-day CEO of ragtime in the U.S., with a piano roll and sheet music collection second to none, and a knowledge base of ragtime that’s without peer. He’s also a great folk rag composer. “Show Me” is one of his vigorous, bluegrass-like pieces with great thematic development, strong rhythmic support and thick sonority.
Fred Hoeptner played splendidly, starting with Max Morath’s masterful “One for Amelia” (named in honor of Joseph Lamb’s wife Amelia, who was instrumental in publishing some of his unpublished manuscripts after Blesh/Janis’ “They All Played Ragtime” became a sensation). Next, Fred gave us Lamb’s beautiful “Ragtime Nightingale,” one of the composer’s signature pieces.
Ruby Fradkin was on the program early this time, and started out with a new addition to her repertoire, a Latin-American waltz named “Il Sorisso,” (The Happy Smile). It was delightful to listen to and well played. Next, Ruby unfolded her own versions of “You are my Sunshine” and “Baby Face.” She’s continually making these standards more and more her own, injecting her own personality, technique and ideas into them. It’s a joy to hear her play.
Phil Cannon strapped on his guitar/banjo and played two Joplin compositions, first the demanding “Magnetic Rag,” the last rag Joplin published, and “Reflection Rag,” which Stark brought out posthumously, but which sounds like a relatively early Joplin composition. Phil did a magnificent job on both.
Next up was Bill Mitchell, quickly finding a terrific groove on the Tennessee folk rag “Tickled to Death” by Charles Hunter. This was followed up by Henry Lodge’s “Temptation Rag,” a well-known piece that’s nonetheless played all too seldom at our club. It was great to hear it played live and, of course, wonderful to hear it coming from Bill.
One Bill followed another, with Bill Coleman taking up the hot seat and giving the keys a workout on “At a Georgia Camp Meeting” and the old favorite “Turkey in the Straw.”
With that, we hit the halfway point and adjourned for a brief intermission.
After some socializing, announcements and our monthly raffle, Gary got the second half of the meeting going with “Scott Joplin’s New Rag” and James Scott’s tender “Ragtime Betty.”
Bill Mitchell took over the piano with a languid version of “Stormy Weather,” perfectly capturing the mood of the day as the raindrops outside splattered on the concrete, glass and rooftop. This he followed up on a positive note with James Scott’s lively “Sunburst Rag.” To top it off, he got down and dirty with (by request) Jelly Roll’s deservedly admired “The Pearls.”
Phil returned with another Joe Lamb masterwork, this time “Topliner” rag, considered by some critics to be one of the three greatest rags ever written. Phil captured its lush, flowing, melancholy beauty. Next, Phil played Joplin’s “Wall Street Rag,” dedicating it especially to Ron Ross, who requested it a couple of months ago, but no one had come forward to perform it until Phil. Phil stayed on as Ron joined him in a duet of Ron’s own “Retro Rag,” one of my personal favorites off Ron’s “Ragtime Renaissance” CD.
After “Retro,” Ron invited Alan (The Great Bramanovich) Breimer to join him and Phil on some old favorites, first “Hello My Baby,” then “Toot, Toot, Tootsie,” and Tony Jackson’s “Pretty Baby.” As usual, it was music followed by mania, followed by mayhem. Tongue in cheek and cringing brow aside, it’s always hard not to crack up when The Great Bramanovich wields the mike.
Ruby had the distinction of following Phil, Ron and Alan. She started with a creative medley that consisted of “Tom Dooley” wrapped around “Alouette.” Then, Ruby brought up Phil, Bill Mitchell and percussionist James to join her on an extended, soulful performance of Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” replete with improvisation, individual soloing, a constantly driving beat and an honest-to-goodness blues feel.
Fred Hoeptner was asked to come up and perform some of his own compositions. This time, he chose “Dalliance, a Ragtime Frolic” and “Idyll of Autumn.” Both are stunning works, original, imaginative, sensitive, powerful and intricate. It was indeed a special treat to be able to hear this quality of music live in a local IHOP on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Ron Ross returned with one of his recent works, “Nostalgia,” followed by his “Sunday Serendipity,” a fun, cheery rag off his CD.
Gary took us around the final turn with Joplin’s “Sugar Cane” rag, and Bill Mitchell brought the house down and the meeting to an end with two Jelly Roll Morton classics, “New Orleans Blues (Joys)” and “Stratford Hunch,” a.k.a. “Chicago Breakdown.”
With that, we said “au revoir” and agreed to meet on Sunday February 24th at 2:30 PM.
As if that were ever in question…J
Sundays, 2:05-3:30 pm PT, “Syncopation Station,” KDHX St. Louis MO 88.l; host, Jan Douglas. Internet streaming has been suspended temporarily.
Sundays, 4-5 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. Internet streaming has been suspended temporarily.
Thursdays, 7-8 pm PT, “Ragtime America,” KGNU Boulder CO 88.5 and www.kgnu.org; host, Jack Rummel.
Brad Kay Sunday afternoons, 2-4 p.m. at The Unurban, 3301 W. Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica. Coffee, etc. No cover charge
Jerry Rothschild Fri. and Sat., 7-10 p.m. at Curley’s Restaurant, corner Willow & Cherry, Signal Hill.
Orange County Ragtime Society, Steamers Café, 138 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton (714) 871-8800. No charge. Lunch menu available. Next meeting date TBA. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dick Zimmerman & Tracy Doyle, Ragtime pianist and vocalist, Sunday, March 10, 7:00 p.m. Old Town Music Hall, 140 Richmond St., El Segundo. Admission $20. Phone 310-322-2592. E-mail email@example.com
MIMI BLAIS AT OTMH, 2/14/02
(Reported by Gary Rametta)
In what’s becoming the perfect Valentine’s date, the Old Town Music Hall presented another outstanding concert on February 14 by Mimi Blais. This marked the third straight year the Canadian pianist and entertainer extraordinaire made a Valentine’s Day appearance in El Segundo.
Wearing a black lace skirt with matching long-sleeve blouse and a black bonnet accentuated by a burgundy rose, Mlle. Blais greeted the 100 or so guests with her trademark wittiness. To the cheers of “Belle Pianiste!” and other accolades, Mimi immediately went to work on a rhapsodic, multi-tempo waltz by countryman Jean-Baptiste LaFreniere, who composed during and after the ragtime era. She followed up with a long, sullen, probing blues piece called “Sunday Morning Blues.”
Her set continued with more of her favorites, including LaFreniere’s effervescent “Taxi Rag,” a masterful rendition of May Aufderheide’s “The Thriller,” a heart-wrenching performance of Lamb’s “Ragtime Nightingale,” Bowman’s “11th Street Rag,” Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You,” a deconstruction of Luckey Roberts’ “Pork and Beans,” Frank French’s “Belle of Louisville” and Galen Wilkes “Last of the Ragtime Pioneers.”
For the second half of the show, Mimi came out in a top hat and tuxedo tails. She opened with a stunning performance of Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Le Bananier” (The Banana Tree). Next was Joplin’s “Crush Collision March,” followed by a medley of Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Solace,” “Bethena” and “The Entertainer.”
Moving into the novelty rag genre, she played a terrifically fast and exact “Kitten on the Keys,” and gave Eubie’s “Baltimore Todalo” a workout. Next was Kathy Craig’s 1976 “Romantic Rag,” followed by a trio of new Galen Wilkes rags (a western-style rag, a ballad and a tango) and a rare gem called ‘The Cutter,” written by a woman named Elma Ney McClure during ragtime’s heyday.
Mimi closed her set with two versions of Botsford’s “Black and White Rag.” The first was in her usual style, complete with blazing embellishments, while the second was the way she plays when accompanying a silent film. It was fun, original and superbly played. It’s always a treat to see and hear Mimi Blais perform. Take my word, if you love ragtime or simply want to hear a great pianist play, go way out of your way to see her.
OCRS HONORS BLACK HISTORY MONTH
(Reported by Eric Marchese)
A cadre of outstanding pianists brought an eclectic mixture of pieces and performing styles to Steamers Cafe on a windy Saturday afternoon for the Orange County Ragtime Society gathering. Honoring Black History Month, many of the performers focused on the pieces of black composers (although not exclusively), packing nearly four-dozen numbers into the three-hour-plus time slot.
The musicale also reflected the fact that three of ragtime's greatest proponents -- James Scott, James P. Johnson and Eubie Blake -- were born in February (Scott on the 12th, Johnson on Feb. 1, Blake on Feb. 7), providing a generous sampling of the music of all three composers.
Bill Mitchell offered Scott's first big hit, "Frog Legs Rag," and two outstanding Ford Dabney tunes, "Georgia Grind" and "Porto Rico." Bill and banjoist Hal Groody also did a mini-set of great Shelton Brooks tunes -- "Some of these Days," "Darktown Strutter's Ball" and "Walkin' the Dog" -- as well as Scott's "Grace and Beauty."
OCRS founder Eric Marchese offered Scott's "Great Scott"; a pair of folksy Classic rags by Arthur Marshall -- "The Pippin" and "The Kinklets"; Joplin's fine "Augustan Club Waltzes"; and the Chauvin-Joplin "Heliotrope Bouquet." Pat Aranda's masterful set included more Scott ("Hilarity") and James P. Johnson's stride masterpiece "Carolina Shout," as well as Morton's "Grandpa's Spells."
Carl Sonny Leyland's first set included his bluesy, boogie-style version of Joplin's "Original Rags" and Cow Cow Davenport's "State Street Jive." He encored with several numbers, including Cow Cow's "Hurry Up and Bring It Home" and his own "Argyle Avenue Breakdown."
Bob Pinsker focused heavily on Eubie Blake's music and life, complete with historical details and information. He performed (and sang) several Blake songs, including "Memories of You"; Blake's seminal ragtime piece "Charleston Rag"; "Baltimore Todalo" and "Dicty's on Seventh Avenue"; a superb, 11-number medley from Blake's Broadway show "Shuffle Along"; and a rare treat: an untitled, unpublished, unrecorded Blake foxtrot from 1913.
Brad Kay's set included a pair of comical songs about unrequited love, Clarence Williams' "Midnight Stomp," Hoagy Carmichael's "Boneyard Shuffle," Ellington's "Jubilee Stomp," Fats Waller's "St. Louis Shuffle," and a smashing version of Meade Lux Lewis' "Honky Tonk Train." Ron Ross chipped in with several tunes of his own, including "Digital Rag" and "Sweet is the Sound," and longtime Maple Leaf Club attendee Glenn Perelman offered a decidedly raggy version of "Never on Sunday."
It is good to hear that the live concerts at Old Town Music Hall will continue. Although the 2002 schedule has not been finalized yet (to the best of my knowledge), Dick Zimmerman is definitely slated for March 10. Tracy Doyle will be featured on vocals. Dick is one of the few contemporary ragtime pianists that can be characterized as phenomenal. He has contributed hugely to ragtime. He is a top performer and stylist. He spearheaded the Maple Leaf Club over the years, and edited The Rag Times, its newsletter. He has done prodigious research, and has published several wonderful folios of rare rags. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear him on March 10.
Bill Mitchell, Editor Phone (714) 528-1534; Fax (714) 233-3886
Rose Leaf Club webpage http://members.tripod.com/roseleafrag/