S O M E T H I N G D O I N G
By Bill Mitchell
Ragtime Happenings in the Southland
DATE August 1999 NUMBER 11
Ron Ross has taken responsibility for the Rose Leaf Club Web Page. If you are on the Internet, make note of the new URL:
There you will find a history of the club, location and map, reports of the monthly meetings, etc.
The club extends thanks to Darrell Woodruff for contributing many new cassettes, CDs and a few videotapes to the Rose Leaf Library. Which brings your editor to make a few remarks about the library and to make a request for assistance. The library has been quite popular, with a good many check-outs each month. Please remember to cross out your name and the items when you return them (hopefully at the next meeting each time.) IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL IF SOMEONE WOULD VOLUNTEER TO ACT AS LIBRARIAN, TAKING CUSTODY OF THE COLLECTION AND OVERSEEING THE CHECK-OUTS AND RETURNS. (YOU COULD HANDLE IT ANY WAY YOU CHOOSE.)
Don Jones, editor of The American Rag, has made us a nifty offer. For running a subscription form each month in Something Doing, he will donate a free four-month trial subscription to the club as a door prize, in addition to free two-month trial subscriptions to all “new members.” This raises a point: we don’t officially have members. Anyone can come to the meetings with a $3 door donation. The closest thing we have to a membership roster is the list of subscribers to Something Doing. Perhaps the two-month subscriptions should be given to new subscribers to our newsletter.
We will start an “opportunity drawing” beginning with the August meeting. Tickets will be given when you donate at the door (free tickets for performers). You may be the winner of a gift subscription to The American Rag, a CD, or some other goodie.
Nan Bostick notified us of a new ragtime festival at Sutter Creek, in the heart of the Gold Rush Country, August 13-15. Participants were to include Nan, Pete Clute, Bill Kenville, Keith Taylor, Alan Ashby, Susan Larson, and Steve Price, playing at three venues. With luck we’ll get a report of this for the Sept. newsletter.
Thanks for renewals from Jerry Rothschild, Brad Kay, and Mary Licking. And thanks to Bill Buell for a special contribution to help keep the show on the road.
Pianist Dave Bourne has a new CD out called “Saloon Piano,” which will be reviewed in The Mississippi Rag by your editor. Dave was one of the founders of the Maple Leaf Club in 1967, but the fact that he is almost always working Sunday afternoons has precluded his attending MLC or RLC meetings. This CD consists of the kind of tunes you would have heard in the saloons from the Civil War era on through the first decade of the 20th century. If you would like to order Dave’s CD the price is $17 payable to Dave Bourne, 30645 Mainmast Dr., Agoura, CA 91301.
We learn from The Friends of Scott Joplin newsletter that there will be a St. Louis Ragtime Festival Sept. 11, featuring, among other entertainers, Sue Keller, Tony Caramia and the St. Louis Ragtimers with Trebor Tichenor. For information, the E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Sept. 12 there will be a musical ceremony to dedicate a monument at the previously unmarked grave of Tom Turpin, the father of St. Louis ragtime, at St. Peter’s Cemetery. John Stark and his family are buried in the same cemetery. (Stark published the rags of Joplin, James Scott, and Joseph F. Lamb.)
Also in St. Louis, the Goldenrod Festival will be held Sept. 2-4. Call (314) 946-2020 for information.
If you have news of upcoming events, let us know. Also, reviews, opinions, whatever, are invited.
Bill Mitchell, Editor
Sat., Aug. 28, 1-5 p.m., New Orleanians (trad jazz a la Kid Ory), Shoreline Village, Long Beach. (free)
Sunday, Aug. 29, 4-7 p.m., Rose Leaf Ragtime Club, 3521 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
Sat. and Sun., Sept. 4 & 5, New Orleanians, same as above.
Sun., Sept. 26, 7 p.m. Dick Zimmerman, “King of Ragtime.” Old Town Music Hall,
140 Richmond, El Segundo
Sunday night: KSBR (88.5) 8-10 p.m., hosted by Jeff Stone. (Mission Viejo)
From Colorado, Thurs. night 7-8 p.m. (California time) KBNU.com (on the Internet--RealAudio required), hosted by Jack Rummel.
(Thanks to Ron Ross for the radio information.)
JUNE 27 ROSE LEAF CLUB MEETING
Lee Roan and George McClellan got things off to a peppy start by manning the two pianos and favoring us with duet versions of three old pop songs: “Sierra Sue,” “Whispering,” and “Shine On, Harvest Moon.” Interestingly, “Sierra Sue” was a 1916 popular song. When I heard it as a teen-ager in 1940 I assumed it was brand-new, but it was just enjoying a revival that year.
Gary Rametta and Bill Mitchell performed a duet version of Joplin’s “Original Rags,” after which Bill soloed on “Rag Sentimental,” “Grizzly Bear Rag,” and “Queen of Love - Two-Step.” Nancy Kleier introduced us to “Impecunious Davis,” a Kerry Mills number from 1899. Then came an interesting pairing, “Cactus Rag,” by Lucian Porter Gibson, and “Pastime Rag #3,” by Artie Matthews. These two are stylistically much akin, and Gary Rametta made the observation that Matthews had arranged another Gibson number, “Jinx Rag,” for publication, and that very probably he also arranged “Cactus Rag.”
Susan Erb brought us “Pleasant Moments,” one of Joplin’s few waltzes, and “TGIF” by RLC member George McClellan.
For his solo slot Gary Rametta played “Scott Joplin’s New Rag,” “Graceful Ghost,” by William Balcom, and James scott’s “Grace and Beauty.” “Graceful Ghost” is a contemporary masterpiece, rather complex and difficult to play. (Bravo, Gary!)
Ron Ross favored us with three of his own compositions, “Paris Carousel,” “Rickety Rag,” and “Mirella.” He named “Mirella” after his goddaughter and dedicated the piece to her.
Brad Kay had been brushing up on his Joplin, and brought forth some “Euphonic Sounds.” He followed with an original he wrote several years ago, entitled “Matinee Idyll.” (Yes, the spelling is correct.)
At this point the club took a few minutes for a break, during which some members checked out CDs or tapes from the club library, and a few people left early in order to attend the Magnetic Ragtime Orchestra concert at the Old Town Music Hall at 7:00 p.m.
The music resumed with Susan Erb playing “For You a Rose,” a rare song from 1917 by Gus Edwards. Gary Rametta returned with a couple of Joplin rags: “Sugar Cane” and “Weeping Willow.”
Brad Kay’s second set included “Midnight Stomp,” a seldom heard Clarence Williams tune, Jelly Roll Morton’s famous “The Pearls,” and James P. Johnson’s stride classic, “Jingles.”
Nancy Kleier returned to entertain with Eubie Blake’s “Chevy Chase,” Lucky Roberts’ “Palm Beach,” and Ben Harney’s “Cakewalk in the Sky.”
Ron Ross wound up the meeting with another trio of originals: “Small Town Private Eye,” “Obadiah’s Jumpsuit,” and “Sweet Is the Sound.” When queried about “Obadiah’s Jumpsuit,” he said it was “...one of those stream-of-consciousness things that happens, nobody knows why. After I wrote it, it decided that was its name.”
As is usually the case, the July meeting offered an intriguing variety of folk, classic,
popular, and modern ragtime, nostalgic Tin Pan Alley favorites, novelties, and you name it.
As they say, a good time was had by all.
THAT GRAND CAKEWALK IN THE SKY
In that grand cakewalk in the sky
We’ll be moving out in ragtime style
Those piano keys will be flying
Bass bouncing, syncopation in best of form
In tempo unison
And top notch perfection
That rag will be polished
Practiced and practiced in fine tune
For the performance of a lifetime
A star of ragtime
Everyone will be tappin’
That upbeat, fun tune --
Notes will be flying high
For that grand cakewalk in the sky.
by Susan Erb
MAGNETIC RAGTIME ORCHESTSTRA AT OTMH 7/25/1999
Nattily attired in tuxedos, the Magnetic Ragtime Orchestra, fronted by pianist Dean Mora, gave one of their occasional concerts Sunday evening at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo. This was their last scheduled appearance at this venue for 1999. (Their first one there was in 1992.)
An appropriate opening number was “A Warm Reception,” an 1899 number by Bert Anthony. “Let’s Make Love among the Roses,” and unfamiliar song from 1910 by Jean Schwartz and William Jerome followed. (It might have caught on better with a less prickly title.) Botsford’s “Chatterbox Rag” followed.
Cornettist Jody Gladstone stepped forward to deliver the vocal on “Billy.” In 1911 this song, with just a touch of sly innuendo, was considered scandalous. (Can you imagine what 1911 would have thought of the lyrics of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, or Bessie Smith?)
“King Cotton,” a rousing march from 1896 by John Philip Sousa, was next. By 1914 the tango craze was in full swing, and William Dixon’s “Delicioso Aristocrato” was a good example of that type of dance music. Joplin’s “The Easy Winners” featured a piccolo solo by Jim La Sota.
Jody Gladstone returned to sing “Home in Pasadena,” one of the orchestra’s trademark numbers. Harry Warren, the prolific movie songwriter, published this ditty in 1922 at the beginning of his career. Originally a vehicle for Al Jolson, it is a charming bit of Southern California nostalgia.
In 1914 people were dancing not only the tango, but also the fox trot. Jesse Wynn’s “The Bayside Fox Trot” was typical. This number was followed by a graceful orchestral version of May Aufderheide’s “The Thriller.” Irving Berlin wrote literally hundreds of songs. Many survived to become standards, but “You’ve Got Your Mother’s Big Blue Eyes” is a Berlin tune most of us would never have heard of were it not for MRO’s inclusion of it in their program. For their last tune before intermission, the MRO played an early Gus Kahn tune of 1914, “Everybody Rag with Me.”
As is the custom at OTMH the “pharmacy” was open at intermission for potables and snacks. Typically, most of the audience gathered around the theater entrance for socializing and snacking.
The second half got off to a syncopated start with “Powder Rag,” by Raymond Birch (Charles L. Johnson), followed by the Joplin/Hayden collaboration, “Sunflower Slow Drag.” Another Irving Berlin obscurity was “Along Came Ruth (Introducing ‘The Haunted House’).” Jody Gladstone sang the lyrics to Creamer and Layton’s 1918 hit, “After You’ve Gone.”
A Harry Von Tilzer tune with the curious title “I Knew Him When He Was All Right” was next on the program.
Dean Mora announced that the orchestra would play a maxixe, an approximate pronunciation of which would be ma-shee-shee. This dance originated in Brazil and worked its way to North America just before World War I. The chosen maxixe was “Dangeroso,” by Ernesto Nazareth. (I seem to recall a big-band version based on this tune called “Boogie Woogie Maxixe” in the swing era.
Joplin’s ever popular “Pineapple Rag” was next, followed by the Jerry Kuhn arrangement of “California, Here I Come,” with vocal by Jody Gladstone and audience participation. The orchestra then played an oddity from 1911, “Little Hungary - a Musical Goulash with Apologies to Brahms,” by Norman Lee. The old minstrel favorite, “Alabama Jubilee,” again featured Jody Gladstone.
No OTMH program would be complete without Bill Coffman’s cranking up the Mighty Wurlitzer, and so it was that the grand finale featured arrangements by Robin Frost for orchestra and pipe organ of “Swipesy Cakewalk” and “Bohemia.”
This concert was dedicated to the memory of Gus Wilmorth, who did so very much over the years for the Maple Leaf Club, Rose Leaf Club, and ragtime in general.
This was the first time your editor had heard the Magnetic Ragtime Orchestra. He was impressed by their well-disciplined and spirited playing. Most of the music was from the first two decades of this century. There was a nice balance of the familiar and the obscure. Dean Mora was a genial emcee who provided interesting commentary on the selections.
1999 ROCKY MOUNTAIN FEST HIGHLIGHTS
By Fred Hoeptner
The eighth annual Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival opened in Boulder, Colorado, Thurday evening, July 15, and closed the following Monday evening attracting a steadily increasing assemblage of devotees. Under Scott Kirby’s second year as musical director, the festival continued to focus on ragtime but also to explore related musical genres. All formal sessions except one were held in the comfortable and acoustically superb Unity Church. After hours and Sunday breakfast events were moved to the spacious and airy Kittredge Commons of the University of Colorado, a vast improvement over the former cramped location.
New this year was a separate event preceding the festival itself, the Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival Institute. held at the Department of Music, University of Colorado, the institute featured three days of lectures and discussions on ragtime and related genres in the morning followed in the afternoon by performance critiques (“master classes”) and private lessons under the tutelage of Frank French, Glenn Jenks, Scott Kirby, and David Thomas Roberts, and library sessions conducted by William Kearns, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Music. Participation in the institute included admission to the festival and the opportunity for many to play in the student concert. The total cost was thus little more than the cost of a festival pass alone. This reviewer, along with about 20 others from throughout the country, attended the institute and considered it a worthwhile experience.
As usual, the festival featured four major evening concerts. These spanned the ragtime spectrum and also included a prudent number of selections from Gottschalk, Nazareth, and the “terra verde” genre. The Monday night concert in a piano showroom was notable for its lively sound. In addition, a series of specialty concerts and symposia began at 9:00 Friday and Saturday and continued until 5:00 or 5:30 with a lengthy lunch break. The specialty concerts included “Folk Ragtime Then and Now,” “Invitation to the Danza” featuring a melange of syncopated Latin music, “Mr. Jelly Roll,” the student concert, The Creole Connection,” “New Ragtime, and.”Duet Mania.” Symposium sessions comprised “Ragtime Orientation,” “Roots of Terra Verde,” and Trebor Tichenor’s historical slide show on St. Louis ragtime, “The Rosebud and Beyond.”
Joshua Rifkin, professional classical pianist who instigated the ragtime revival with his 1970 recording of Joplin rags, made one of his rare appearances at a ragtime function performing selections by Joplin, Nazareth, and Morton. Trebor and Virginia Tichenor performed alone, as a duet, and as a trio with Marty Eggers on bass. Pianists Frank French, Glenn Jenks, Brian Keenan, Scott Kirby, David Thomas Roberts, and Jack Rummel performed to their usual high standard. Thrush Susan Boyce accompanied by Glenn Jenks sang two cute novelties from the ragtime era. Groups appearing were the unique trio Bo Grumpus featuring Craig Ventresco on guitar; Sea Biscuits, a quartet comprising piano, banjo, tuba, and washboard; and the Mont Alto Ragtime and Tango Orchestra with soprano Susan Rogers which demonstrated its breadth of repertoire.
The symposium sessions were edifying. “Ragtime orientation” started with historical use of syncopation. Jenks cited syncopated music by Orlando Givens from 1500. Roberts cited Beethoven’s use of both tied and untied syncopation. Improvisation in ragtime was discussed in detail. French explained that the more “composed” the music is, the more thought is needed before adding improvisation and demonstrated with Jelly Roll Morton’s version of Joplin’s “Original Rags” played in 4/4 versus the original 2/4.
Jenks explained that in ragtime the melody is fixed with some slight deviations whereas in jazz the melody is trashed and the focus is on chordal structure. Analogously, rags which are harmonically driven are more amenable to improvisation. Kirby traced the roots of ragtime’s styles to the four musical genres of folk, popular (minstrelsy, marches), Latin, and classical (classical Europe influenced Joplin). Question: How do you feel if other performers improvise on your compositions? Robbers: Play it as written the first time through, then prudently embellish. Question: How fast is “too fast?” Kirby: The admonition “not fast” was printed on ragtime scores because they were being butchered in the “cutting” contests, but that doesn’t mean to play it like a dirge. French: The sensuality is lost when a rag is played too fast. Question: Do Jelly Roll Morton’s rags jibe with your definition of “ ragtime?” French: Some, such as Perfect and Tiger, have elements of ragtime, but are basically vehicles for Morton’s improvisations. Roberts: They draw from ragtime, but are really not ragtime. In the terra verde session Roberts explained his romantic (Chopin) and vernacular (mountain music, Celtic music) influences and asserted that all composition is recomposition of material that has passed through the composer’s mind over a lifetime. He demonstrated how he had applied the drone string technique commonly used by fiddlers in his composition “Madison Heights Girls.” Kirby cited Jack Rummel’s division of “new ragtime” into nostalgic and progressive categories. Jenks demonstrated the harmonic and textural differences between them. Roberts described new ragtime as often derived from styles (folk, Beatles) that didn’t exist or were isolated during the ragtime era. Roberts demonstrated sections of “Roberto Clemente” that incorporated country elements. Kirby and French showed how the Latin habanera and clave rhythms are being used (“Ravenna,” “Candela,” “North Star,” “Revenge”) Kirby described terra verde as exploring new territory but within traditional harmonic bounds.
A minor quibble seemed to be the sparse fare at the Sunday breakfast. Several attendees said that they would be willing to pay a little more for a more substantial spread.