January 2007 OCRS sees
the January effect
The January 2007 OCRS saw several milestones,
including the unofficial fifth anniversary of the club (technically,
in November, 2006) and the first time for the use of Mo's Fullerton
Music as a venue. Unlike Steamers, Mo's has several pianos, which
nicely lent itself to multiple-performer renditions of several crowd
favorites. The venue, known as "The Cave," can seat up to
100, is filled with musical memorabilia, photos, posters, stuffed
animals and more. Two pianos grace the stage, a Howard (Baldwin) baby
grand and a Hobart "cabinet grand" (full upright), with
a Wurlitzer spinet off to one side.
The crowd of roughly 45 included 10 musicians who delivered a total
of 40 numbers. As requested by MC Eric Marchese, many of these were
either tunes written by composers born in January or tunes whose copyright
dates occurred in that month. There were also a fair share of “centennial”
rags – pieces published in 1907, a theme likely to resurface
throughout the rest of the coming year.
Eric opened things up with one of Scott Joplin’s several gems
from 1907, his magnificent “Searchlight Rag.” He then
turned to Joplin’s outstanding 1901 waltz, “Augustan Club
Waltzes,” which has two busy opening themes, a subdued trio
and a grandly dignified closing strain. Eric capped his set with his
2004 piece “The Fullerton Glide” as a tip of the hat to
the city of Fullerton for hosting the OCRS for five years (and counting)
as well hosting seven RagFests. Eric composed the music as an untitled
song in 2003, then a year later wrote lyrics describing Fullerton’s
founding as a town in 1904 as a tribute to the city’s 2004 centennial,
with a new second verse being added in 2005.
Traveling all the way from Sierra Madre was teenager Vincent Johnson
who, at 14, is beginning to really hit his stride as an up-and-coming
ragtime pianist. He opened with Luckey Roberts's tuneful and melodic
"Music Box Rag," played with a nice lilt, then followed
it with Copeland’s "Cabbage Leaf," alluding to the
way it foreshadows Novelty piano (that it does, with a funky B theme
loaded with slurs and triplets). Introducing his next selection as
"the first million-seller" of any instrumental piece of
sheet music and, next to "Twelfth Street Rag," the most
famous rag ever written, Vincent invited Eric to join him for an off-the-cuff
duet of "Maple Leaf Rag."
Shirley Case offered three of Joseph F. Lamb’s sparkling rags
published posthumously in the 1964 Mills folio "Ragtime Treasures,"
opening with "Ragtime Bobolink," a rag so clearly influenced
by classical music. Shirley’s wonderful rendition, including
creative improvisations and counterpoint, is preserved on her CD,
“A Ragtime Feast.” Continuing with the 'bird' motif, Shirley
offered "Bird Brain Rag." She closed her set with one of
the great "heavy" Lamb scores, the grand, elegant and often
soaring "Cottontail Rag," again with many nice touches by
After a host of upcoming concert announcements, Bob Pinsker took the
stage with C. Frederick Clark’s composition “Midnight,”
noting the difficulty of categorizing the piece by musical genre.
Published by Walter Jacobs in Boston in 1925, the piece was reprinted
in Melody magazine, where Bob was able to procure it. Its trio offers
a kaleidoscope of changing harmonies, and the entire piece is an amalgam
of Novelty piano, European and American classical and contemporary
Relating a tale of his recent visit to the Library of Congress, Bob
noted that he found a total of 58 songs composed by George W. Thomas
between 1916 and 1928, many of which were either self-published or
unpublished. [Quick math shows that’s more than four pieces
per year.] Bob proceeded to display the cover artwork, then to perform,
Thomas's "That Bull Frog Rag," published by Clarence Williams
in 1917 with this boast on the cover following the title: “In
Class by Itself!” Bob joked that Thomas must have considered
the obscure piece "a big hit," because Thomas copyrighted
an exactly identical piece a few years later as "Hog's Grunt."
The piece’s busy opening theme is followed by a second strain
that leans on the three-over-four pattern and a lyrical yet lively
Hersal Thomas, one of George Thomas’ many younger siblings (there
were at least a dozen) made his first recording at age 14 and composed
many a piece before his death at age 16 (possibly as 'old' as 19 -
census records differ slightly). Bob displayed the manuscript to “They
Needed a Piano Player in Heaven, So They Sent for Hersal.” The
piece was copyrighted on June 16, 1926, two weeks *before* the date
given universally for Hersal's death! (July 3, 1926). However, after
finding this piece at the Library, Bob was able to find an item in
The Chicago Defender from 12 June 1926 that proves that the correct
date of Hersal's death was 2 June 1926. A melodic ballad with shades
of the blues and torch songs, the piece was rendered with plenty of
appropriate schmaltz by Mr. Pinsker.
On her way to south Orange County for a house concert solo performance,
Nan Bostick took to the baby grand, inviting Shirley (on the Hobart)
and Eric (on the spinet) to join her on "That Poker Rag."
Bill Mitchell replaced Shirley on the upright for Joplin’s "Original
Rags." Finally, Shirley returned to the stage with Bob, Bill
Mitchell, Andrew Barrett and Frank Sano for a 14-handed arrangement
of the 1906 Charles L. Johnson hit "Dill Pickles."
Andrew’s solo set started with Adeline Shepherd’s "Live
Wires" from 1909, a piece he said is "Dedicated to the real
live wire, Maurice H. Richmond." The first section is melodic,
B is lively, with much good improv work by Andrew, and the trio, like
Shepherd’s hit "Pickles and Peppers," is quiet and
dignified. Andrew followed with a 1912 obscurity, "That Dixie
Dip," a piece credited to "Dippy Dip." A fairly standard
piece, as Andrew noted, the last four bars of the second theme do
indeed quote "Dixie." Andrew closed with a 1907 tune, Johnson's
"Southern Beauties," with its upbeat second strain and a
lyrical and pretty trio that alternates twice with an interlude, given
wonderfully raggy improvisations by the pianist.
Bill and Eric duetted on "The Smiler," which is not only
a centennial piece but which was copyrighted in January (1/2/1907)
and whose composer, Percy Wenrich, was born in January. Bill then
soloed on two more rags copyrighted in January: Belding's "Good
Gravy Rag" (1/18/1913) and Scott’s "Kansas City Rag"
(like "The Smiler," copyrighted Jan. 2, 1907). Bill gives
the lively "Good Gravy" a great rendition and neatly features
the creative left hand of the trio of "Kansas City," certainly
one of the more underplayed Classic rags.
Bill and Frank duetted on "The Blue Room" and "Cakewalkin'
Babies from Home" and Frank and Eric on "Hard-Hearted Hannah."
Stan Long delivered his impressions, all based on playing by ear,
of Confrey’s "Dizzy Fingers," then invited Vincent
to take the upper half of the baby grand. With Stan covering the keyboard’s
lower half, the duo delivered a four-handed, one-piano version of
Joplin's "Peacherine." Stan closed with "My Ditty,"
an original medley that includes "Fur Elise" and "Stars
and Stripes Forever."
Noticing the many stuffed animals, Vincent placed a small gray tiger
on the baby grand before delivering more Confrey with – what
else? – "Kitten on the Keys." He exhibited nice technique
on what is considered James Scott’s masterpiece, "Grace
Fred Hoeptner offered more great Scott with an exciting rendition
of the underperformed "Victory Rag." He then switched to
contemporary mode with his lovely, melancholy "Aura of Indigo,"
whose trio offers certain hints of Gershwin. Fred then performed most
of his one of his newest compositions, "Marching Through Sedalia"
(from 2005), whose opening section has the flavor of the old American
Eric encored with "Get This!," a wonderful Walter Blaufus
slow drag from 1913, and his 1991 original "Winnin' Time,"
dedicated to the Magic Johnson-era Los Angeles Lakers teams which
won several championships during the 1980s.
Shirley encored with two beautiful Trebor Tichenor rags: "Cape
Rose" and "Glen Arbor," both with some bluesy licks
and a Classic rag-style call-and-response. Trebor, as Eric noted,
is one of several outstanding contemporary ragtime composers born
Bill encored with Joplin's "Easy Winners" and Scott's "Sunburst,"
both bright, vital Classic rags. Bob’s encores were Lew Pollack's
"Harry Fox Trot" from 1918, with its dynamic opening theme,
an energetic B section with a Novelty-style break and a trio with
more break-like figures. He closed with "Out of Time," an
unpublished slow drag of Eric’s from 2003. Andrew’s encore
was "my own version" of Jimmy Blythe's "Society Blues,"
which he learned by ear from "a recording of a piano roll."
The piece uses a drop-bass and other sophisticated techniques to terrific
The highly entertaining and diverse afternoon closed with Andrew on
the grand and Eric on the upright for "Humpty Dumpty," Charley
Straight's first published rag, copyrighted January 13, 1914 and its
composer born in January of 1891. Bob then joined Andrew and Eric
for the grand finale, Euday Bowman’s "Twelfth Street Rag."
By no small coincidence, the piece had been referred to earlier in
the day by Vincent, and it was first copyrighted 1/30/14 and a second
time on 1/2/15.
All in all it was a fine afternoon. We’ll see everyone back
next month, on Feb. 17th, at Steamers!