March 2008 OCRS features
St. Patty’s, Easter, Cobb and Marshall
A light turnout on Easter weekend didn't
hinder nine pianists from delivering a fine afternoon of music with
a wide range in terms of genre and era but with a particular focus
on St. Patrick's Day and Easter. When all was said and done, some
43 selections were performed and one-third of these tied in with St.
Patrick's or Easter or were composed by George Cobb or Arthur Marshall.
The music of Cobb and Marshall, Classic rags, Novelties and Stride
tunes received their due at the Cave at Mo's Music, always a generous
host for OCRS and RagFest events. To get the dual pianos warmed up,
Frank Sano and Vincent Johnson ran through several duets of old standards,
then Vincent and Eric Marchese tried their hands at two outstanding
Charley Straight tunes, "S'More" and "Blue Grass Rag,"
the Marshall-Joplin collaboration "Swipesy," and Jentes'
The official program began with Andrew Barrett's nod to the week's
two holidays, St. Patrick's Day and Easter. He delivered Harry DeCosta's
"Bunny Hug" rag (1912), the Tin Pan Alley song composer's
only known rag and a fine example of advanced ragtime, then Cobb's
"Irish Confetti," a great, inventive rag with fine "Irish"
touches. His set concluded with a second "Bunny Hug," this
one by Cobb, a year later than the DeCosta piece, and with a completely
different feel and flavor.
Doug Haise gave us "Swipesy"; "Lily Queen," by
the same two composers; and "Kinklets," a solo Marshall
effort from 1906. All three were up-tempo, forceful, clean renderings
of one of the great Classic ragtimers.
Frank took the stage again to duet, this time with Bill Mitchell.
They created a medley from two "cousins of ragtime," "I'm
Breezin' Along with the Breeze" and "You Were Meant for
Me," then followed with Fats Waller's tune "Keeping Out
of Mischief Now" and "Chicago."
Bob Pinsker treated us to his "eBay item of the month":
"The Original Blues – A Real Southern Rag," by Ted
S. Barron. This wonderful, short piece, from 1914 is, in Bob's words,
"remarkably polished" and, he noted, clearly influenced
by Handy's works, "Memphis Blues" and "Yellow Dog Blues"
in particular. He followed with Wendling's jazz song standard, "Take
Me to the Land of Jazz," using Wendling's own roll arrangement
to craft a terrific instrumental solo verse and coda to the now-familiar
piece. Noting that Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra is now wrapping up
recording its second album, to be entitled "That's Goin' Some!,"
he performed Joplin's "Palm Leaf Rag," having transposed
the piece up a whole-step to the keys of C and F to make it more workable
for the orchestra. Unlike the original 1903 published arrangement,
Bob's score uses pretty much the entire keyboard, making it fun to
Newcomer Marilyn Martin, who just began playing ragtime last year,
gave us her own heavily syncopated arrangement of John Sebastian's
Eric noted that he had photocopies of several rags and ragtime-oriented
piano pieces honoring St. Patty's (Theron Bennett's "Paddy";
Jack Murfree's "Green Rag"; "McAlheeney's Cakewalk"
etc.). He chose "Blarney Kisses," a 1911 Chicago piece by
Holmes Travis, a wonderful rag with clever Irish-sounding touches.
Eric and Bill then duetted on "The Smiler," with Andrew
on washboard. Andrew took his place at the digital piano on stage
and the three gave us a six-handed version of "Pine Apple Rag,"
now in its centennial as of this year.
Vincent's encores were Wilkes' pretty "Whippoorwill Hollow";
his eBay item of the month, Ted Shapiro's "Dog on the Piano";
and Copeland's "Rocky Mountain Fox." "Dog" has
a nice, jumpin' Stride feel and great licks and tricks, while "Fox"
features blues touches and funky dissonances. Both selections were
well augmented by Vincent's improvisations.
Fred Hoeptner gave us Lamb's monumental "American Beauty,"
hitting his stride on the powerful third theme and closing section;
his own sweet, lyrical and intricate "Marching Through Sedalia";
and Lodge's "Red Pepper," one of the great vintage rags,
coming out right on the heels of the Lodge mega-hit "Temptation."
Bill related how at roughly Vincent's age (15 or so), he first heard
the Lu Watters band's record of the cakewalk "Smokey Mokes,"
which was a huge hit in 1899, one of the biggest cakewalk hits of
the early ragtime era. This was in 1942 when, Bill said, ragtime sheet
music was hard to find. The Watters album was also Bill's first hearing
of "Maple Leaf Rag." Bill then delivered the Abe Holzmann
cakewalk, with Andrew on second piano. Next was Jelly Roll Morton's
"Grandpa's Spells," with Andrew on washboard, using the
tambourine as a drum and also helping on the "crash bass"
sections by crashing the second piano's bass. Finally, the two duetted
on "The Easy Winners" for a pleasing sound.
Eric provided a reprise of DeCosta's "Bunny Hug," pointing
out the many hopping and leaping rhythmic figurations cleverly built
into the piece. He apprised the audience of a third "Bunny Hug"
in addition to DeCosta's and Cobb's: a 1913 piece by Keith Abandana,
published in New York by Globe Music (probably the composer himself)
a few months before the Cobb piece was issued. Eric then told of having
seen a staging of "Harvey" in which the sound designer utilized
George Gershwin's piano roll performance of "Kangaroo Hop"
(to subtly provide a link between kangaroos and six-foot-tall rabbit
friends) before performing Melville Morris' delightful 1915 foxtrot.
Vincent ably handled Jesse Greer's 1926 novelette "Flapperette,"
then more Cobb – the composer's 1923 Novelty "Piano Salad,"
issued by Walter Jacobs of Boston, given a wonderfully full sound
with Vincent and Andrew on the dual pianos. Bill gave us a rarity
– Jean Schwartz's "Bedelia," subtitled "An Irish
Coon Song Serenade." From 1903, its lyrics were by frequent Schwartz
lyricist William Jerome (who wrote lyrics to such standards as "Chinatown,
My Chinatown") and, as Bill related, the piece has become popular
with Dixieland bands in recent years. Bill followed with the Scott
Classic "The Ragtime Oriole," one of the earliest rags of
the "birdcall" genre, then invited Eric up to duet on Doc
Cooke's "Blame It on the Blues." The duo really got the
two pianos cookin' on this one.
Andrew offered terrific playing on the driving, bluesy "Fast
Stuff Blues," off a piano roll transcription of the 1927 Jimmy
Blythe tune. He then presented his own arrangement of the 1905 Paul
Dresser song "My Gal Sal," which he'll be entering in the
World Piano-Playing Championship in Peoria, Ill., in May. With his
many variations on this standard ragtime-era pop tune, including tempo
changes and numerous rhythmic, harmonic and melodic licks and tricks,
Andrew has a great chance of capturing the title.
Doug continued with Marshall, offering all three of Marshall's solo
1908 rags, "The Peach," "The Pippin" and "Ham
And!." All three are first-rate rags, but the latter is of considerable
intricacy that could easily qualify it as the composer's all-time
Bob offered three widely different pieces further illustrating the
process of arranging (or rearranging) of scores composed by others:
Lew Pollack's "Harry Fox Trot," named for vaudevillian Harry
Fox; the 1915 Harms arrangement of "The Robin and the Red, Red
Rose," and his own piano arrangement, working from a bare-bones
score, of contemporary composer Stephen Charles Parker's "The
Hyacinth Rag." "Harry Fox Trot" has a deeply bluesy
sound, while Bob played "name that tune and composer" with
"Robin," and despite providing us with numerous hints as
to the composer, no one was able to come up with the name of Luckey
Roberts – nor did anyone have any clue as to the name of the
With Bob, Eric and Bill on the three pianos, Andrew on washboard and
Doug and Vincent as the rhythm section, the audience got a very full
performance of Joplin's "Original Rags." Andrew and Eric
then switched places for the finale, "Maple Leaf Rag," a
fitting end to a fine afternoon.