Springtime, flowers and
blues for April ’05
An initially small turnout gradually blossomed
as OCRS met on April 17, 2005 at Steamers. By 1:30, performers Shirley
Case, Ron Ross, Fred Hoeptner and emcee Eric Marchese were on hand
and ready to play, with Rose Leaf regular Nancy Kleier on the way
from Pasadena and Marc Sachnoff due in from Santa Monica.
These six pianists delivered 39 pieces over a three-hour span to what
could be described as a respectable showing, with blues tunes (and
those with “blues” in their titles), tunes with “flower”
titles and those referring to spring and springtime dominating the
Eric opened with Joplin’s venerable “Gladiolus,”
following with two tunes from his “Silver Lining” album:
“Texas Tommy Swing,” written by Sid Brown and Val Harris
for the 1911 Ziegfeld Follies, and Abe Olman’s 1917 blues-style
rag “Cheerful Blues.” He wound up his set with Euday Bowman’s
outstanding blues tune “Kansas City Blues,” published
1915, before turning things over to Ron.
Ron’s set consisted of three originals: “Cloudy,”
“Sutter Creek Rag” and “Acrosonic Rag.” Like
all of Ron’s pieces, all have a contemporary sound. Much of
the wistful-sounding “Cloudy” uses the minor key; using
a block-chord bass, the trio develops a key motif, which adds to the
piece’s power. On balance, it’s one of Ron’s best
works. “Sutter Creek” features a single-note melody line
and simple syncopations, wavering between major and minor and, in
the trio, switching to a tango rhythm. “Acrosonic,” named
for a type of Baldwin piano, uses breaks and interesting left-hand
Fred offered one of his newest originals, “Marching Through
Town,” a wonderful contemporary rag with a jaunty opening section
filled with adventurous harmonies, a complementary second strain using
call-and-response, and a reflective trio with even more daring harmonic
work. Fred’s ever-popular “Dalliance” is a sweet,
lively piece with minor key undercurrents and several rhythmic motifs.
Fred ended his set with David Guion’s haunting 1915 piano masterpiece
“Texas Fox-Trot” – not really a foxtrot at all,
but rather a sophisticated handling of Southwestern folk materials
for which Guion was best known.
Shirley offered two outstanding rags by Trebor Tichenor: “Cape
Rose Rag” and “Glen Arbor Rag,” then ended her set
with “Heliotrope Bouquet.” “Cape Rose” combines
jazzy ideas with those found in blues music. “Glen Arbor”
opens with a mellow, bluesy theme, then moves through sections more
folksy and tango-like before a strong concluding section featuring
call-and-response. As always, Shirley’s playing is delicate
yet assured, and always offers surprising flourishes and embellishments
of her own devising.
Eric offered “Babe, It’s Too Long Off,” the later
of Louis Chauvin’s two published ragtime songs – this
one from 1906 (Elmer Bowman wrote the lyrics). Then, Harry Austin
Tierney’s “Fleur De Lis” – the last of nine
Tierney rags published in 1911 – and “Zephyrs of Yesteryear,”
one of six originals Eric composed in 2000.
Nancy was in a springtime mood, so she delivered the sweet, lively
“Dixie Blossoms”; “A Summer Breeze,” James
Scott’s first published rag (from 1903), clearly influenced
by Joplin’s works (dig that final strain, a direct copy of the
second theme of “Elite Syncopations”!); and Bennett’s
ever-popular “St. Louis Tickle.”
Marc started us off with Fats’ “Keepin’ Out of Mischief
Now,” in a loose, relaxed, light foxtrot style with nice improvisations
and embellishments. Noting that while in his hometown of Chicago,
he studied music with Eurreal “Little Brother” Montgomery,
Marc offered an original blues piece titled “Blues for Little
Brother,” an authentic, Chicago-style blues number – slow-tempo,
with plenty of slurs in the melody line and a two-beat left-hand that
often incorporates the walking bass. He ended his set with a twisting,
winding version of “Maple Leaf Rag” inspired by J. Lawrence
Cooke’s intricate, masterful piano roll of the Joplin classic.
This version features looser syncopations than found in Joplin’s
score, a freer approach to the structured melody line and even some
jazz stylings, with the opening theme used to close out the performance.
Commenting on Joplin’s use of the “Maple Leaf” structure
in many other rags, including the aforementioned (and performed) “Gladiolus,”
Eric offered yet another such piece, the Joplin masterpiece “Leola,”
a rarely heard lyrical rag now in its centennial year.
Fred wowed us with Adeline Sheperd’s foot-stomping “Pickles
and Peppers,” a great rag that gives us a written example of
how a theme (in this case, the third strain) can be notated as lightly
syncopated, then, in the repeats, notated using increasingly frenzied
syncopations. Noting that this piece was, of course, used by William
Jennings Bryan as his campaign song, Fred gave the piece a lively,
Ron gave us a recent piece, “Midnight Jam,” which has
an enjoyably loose feel, much use of the minor key, and some jazz
touches; and one of his earlier songs, “Small Town Private Eye.”
Shirley delivered Copeland’s “Cabbage Leaf” and
Roberts’ “Pork and Beans,” lending an entirely improvisatory
feel to both renderings – especially the whimsical “Cabbage
Telling us she had just celebrated “the anniversary of my 39th
birthday,” Nancy gave us the lyrical “Daffodil”
and two classics by Charles N. Daniels: “Dark Eyes” and
“Ladybug’s Revue.” By Galen Wilkes, “Daffodil”
is a light, lyrical foxtrot with a pretty trio. “Dark Eyes”
is a beautifully soft, pretty, melodic tango, and “Ladybug’s
Revue” a jaunty, endearing little march.
Marc gave us a whimsical, swung version of “Dill Pickles,”
complete with triplets, trills and other devices found in Stride.
He then gave us the world premiere of a new original, “Waldo’s
Wanderings,” a tribute to the family dog, a Novelty piece with
loose, jazzy foxtrot rhythms and an endearingly whimsical tone.
Noting the many blues tunes performed so far, Eric offered Cooke’s
“Blame It on the Blues,” then “Jumpin’ Jupiter!,”
an original from 2001 inspired by the intricate yet optimistic-sounding
works of James Scott.
Shirley gave us one of Alexander Tansmann’s Blues Preludes and
a lovely tango by Hal Isbitz titled “La Mariposa” (the
Spanish word for butterfly). From 1937, the Tansmann piece has a wholly
American flavor, what with its bluesy, augmented chords and Gershwinesque
harmonies. Isbitz’s tango, from 1984, has a slow-tempo, melancholy
trio that creates a feeling of mystery before returning to the lighter
moods of the opening themes.
Marc capped the afternoon off with an original improvised boogie he
decided to call the “Steamers Boogie,” and Louis Armstrong’s,
“I’m a Big Butter and Egg Man,” one of the greatest
In all, it was an intimate, enjoyable afternoon with many a wonderful
tune and some genuinely creative performances. Mark your calendars
for the upcoming OCRS meets: June 25 and August 13 at Steamers!