June 2007 OCRS: A bit of
At Steamers on June 16th, 2007, nine musicians
delivered some 45 pieces, including washboard, ukelele and a few vocals
to spice things up. This time around, Kansas City cropped up quite
a bit, either in the titles of pieces or as the city where pieces
Stan Long got things underway with his performances of "The Entertainer,"
"Maple Leaf Rag," "Haunting Accident," his very
Trebor Tichenor- and Brun Campbell-esque original, and a measured
reading of Joplin's "Solace - A Mexican Serenade."
MC Eric Marchese honored an audience request for "Swipesy,"
the 1900 Arthur Marshall piece whose trio was written by Scott Joplin.
Eric then related the occasion of Booker T. Washington being invited
to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt before performing
Joplin's wonderfully march-like 1902 rag "The Strenuous Life,"
whose title is attributed to a well-known Roosevelt quotation. He
closed his set with the rarely-played 1904 Joplin rag "The Favorite,"
which was actually written in Sedalia around the same time as "Maple
Leaf Rag" and "The Ragtime Dance" but whose publication
was, for some unknown reason, held up for four years by Sedalia publisher
A.W. Perry & Sons' Music Company. All three rags are fine examples
of great ragtime from the turn of the century.
Andrew Barrett started his set with George L. Cobb's "Procrastination"
from 1927. Next: Fred Hoeptner's "Melancholy Mood" and,
finally, from 1905, Steven R. Henry's "Priscilla - A Colonial
Intermezzo." Sounding as if it could have been written earlier,
Cobb's lively piece offers fine surprise twists and turns. Fred's
composition, subtitled "A Raggy Blue," is a lovely, haunting
rhapsody full of sadness and waves of delicate emotion, while the
Henry piece is a typical ragtime-era march.
Ron Ross gave us three originals: "Mirella," a nicely emotional
tango with beautiful dissonances, and two songs: "Small Town
Private Eye," with its genuinely funny lyrics, and "The
All-Inclusive Tour." Ditto on those lyrics, sung for comedic
effect in a hick voice.
Shirley Case did two "Sedalia" rags by Galen Wilkes: "Sedalia
Stomp" and "Streets of Sedalia," then switched to "The
Hanon Rag," written by "Perfesser" Bill Edwards while
working on his music degree in Durango, CO (and now part of "the
Edwards library of whimsical classics"). Taken at a measured
tempo, the "Stomp" is a fine, contemporary stoptime rag,
with the audience enjoying its role of clapping their hands (or stomping
their feet) to fill in the tacits, or silences, in the score. Inspired
by photo postcards of the early 20th century, "Streets"
is a classic-style rag with jazzy-sounding harmonies. Edwards' piece,
subtitled "a musical joke," employs deliberate repetition
a la classical composer Hanon.
Bill Mitchell got the crowd further warmed up with three outstanding
pieces he's been playing for years from a 1949 folio of Jelly Roll
Morton piano pieces: "Mister Jelly Lord"; "London Blues";
and "Kansas City Stomp." "Jelly Lord" features
breaks, licks and harmonies that are Morton signatures. Also known
as "Shoeshiner's Drag," "London Blues," recorded
by King Oliver in 1923 and Lionel Hampton in the late '30s, also features
Morton's penchant for breaks. Bill played both expertly while adding
a jazz feeling to the rollicking "Stomp."
Admiring Steamers' beautiful grand piano, Vincent Johnson delivered
Eubie Blake's "Baltimore Todalo," Harry Belding's "Good
Gravy Rag," and Roy Bargy's "Omeomy" (from a Tom Brier
transcription of the piano roll of this unpublished piece). Vincent
added nice touches on all three, literally putting on the kid gloves
for "Omeomy," an exciting tune chock-full of typical Bargy
With Andrew on washboard, Frank Sano credibly rendered "Coney
Island Washboard" and Percy Wenrich and Edward Madden's "Red
Rose Rag" on the piano, then switched to ukelele for "Floating
Down the Old Green River" and "Darkness on the Delta,"
with Bill Mitchell taking over on piano. All three are solidly rhythmic
tunes that benefit from being rendered on multiple instruments.
Bob Pinsker played and sang Willie the Lion Smith's "Music on
My Mind," then hit the crowd with a "name that tune"
in the form of Zez Confrey's beautifully impressionistic "Della
Robbia" from 1938. Bob wrapped up his set with a piano rendition
of the James P. Johnson song "Lock and Key," which he dedicated
to the memory of the recently deceased John Farrell. John transcribed
"Lock and Key" from the record sung by Bessie Smith accompanied
by the composer of the tune; pulling out the piano part from under
Bessie's vocal was a real tour de force, demonstrating Farrell's wonderful
ear. Farrell will be sorely missed.
Stan encored with Gil Lieby's "Goldenrod Rag" and two "three-over-four"
standards, "Dill Pickles," published in Kansas City in 1906,
and "Black and White Rag." Eric's encores also included
"Black and White" as well as "Kansas City Blues,"
a great 1915 blues number by "Twelfth Street Rag" composer
Ron's encores were his newest rag, "Orange County Rag,"
and an old song favorite, "Studio Sensation," again showing
the composer's flair for humorous lyrics. Noting that she was born
in Kansas City, Missouri, Shirley continued her "Missouri"-theme
with two more pieces by Wilkes: "Boone County Rag" and "Creeks
of Missouri," the former achieving a poignant sound and the latter,
the composer's most famous piece, possessing an authentic Missouri
Vincent shifted direction, but kept up the Missouri connection, with
what is probably the only Novelty piece by composer Charles L. Johnson,
who was born and spent his entire career in Kansas City: "Monkey
Biz-Nez," a swingy foxtrot issued in 1928, its title, Vincent
noted, most likely a commentary on the Scopes "monkey trial"
of 1925. Bill Mitchell carried forward the afternoon's coincidental
K.C. theme with his encore - "Original Rags," Joplin's first
published rag, which was issued by Carl Hoffman of Kansas City in
1899, six months before the belated appearance of "Maple Leaf
Frank and Andrew delivered "Hard-Hearted Hannah" (Frank
on piano, Andrew on washboard), then Bill spelled Frank at the piano
for "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee." With Frank on a well-miked
uke and Andrew providing the steamboat whistle sounds while pounding
the washboard, this turned out to the be one of the most entertaining
numbers of the day. Andrew then switched to the piano for his two
encores - first, "The Reuben Foxtrot," a 1914 number by
Ed Claypoole, better known for "Ragging the Scale," then
"You're Too Cranky - A Stride Novelty" which Andrew started
writing in 2004 and completed a year or so later. Using triplets,
a drop-bass and other devices of both genres, the piece is indeed
an ingenious blend of Harlem Stride and Novelty and an exciting addition
to the contemporary ragtime repertory.
Bob Pinsker wrapped up the day with Roy Bargy's version of the great
Luckey Roberts stride piece "Railroad Blues." Bob learned
the piece off of Bargy's piano roll, noting that Bargy himself was
heavily influenced by Roberts' version of it. Either way, it's a tremendous
Stride number. Next, Bob once again saluted John Farrell by performing
James P. Johnson's "Weeping Blues," which Bob re-edited
from John Farrell's transcription of the 1923 recording. The piece,
in all its glory, contains tangy dissonances, jazzy breaks and more.
Bob ended his set and the afternoon with his usual stellar rendering
of "Lem Fowler's Hot Strut." From his own transcription
of the composer's piano roll, the piece is indeed hot and it does
indeed strut (and stride!) - a terrific way to end a wonderful afternoon
About the only thing missing was a performance of James Scott's wonderful
"Kansas City Rag" from 1907. Oh, well... perhaps next meeting!
We'll see everyone at Mo's on August 18th at our usual starting time
of 1 pm.