Tag Archives: Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival

STATE OF THE ART: DALTON RIDENHOUR and EVAN ARNTZEN (Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, Sedalia, Missouri: June 2, 2018)

Dalton Ridenhour, photograph by Aidan Grant

Duet playing in any genre is difficult — making two into one while keeping the individuals’ individualities afloat.  Improvised duet playing, as you can imagine, might be the most wonderful soaring dance of all but it is fraught with the possibility of disaster.  Can we agree on a tempo?  Is one of us rushing or dragging?  Do we agree on the changes?  Do we play the tag at the end of every chorus?  Do we change key for the final chorus?  Or, as Vic Dickenson said, “How do you want to distribute the bounces?”

Evan Arntzen, photograph by Tim Cheeney

But I am sure that some of my most enthralling moments have been as an open-mouthed spectator at some duets: Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines or Buck Washington, Al Cohn and Jimmie Rowles; Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins; Ruby and Dick Hyman; Vic and Ralph Sutton; Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson; Zoot Sims and Bucky Pizzarelli, Andrew Oliver and David Horniblow, Marc Caparone and Ray Skjelbred . . . . and and and.  Now I add to that list the two fellows photographed above . . . on the basis of two songs in concert.

Here are two lovely examples of how improvised duet playing — by two people, expert and intuitive — can touch our hearts while we marvel at the risks taken and the immense rewards.  Pianist Dalton Ridenhour was playing a solo set at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, and gave us a surprise by inviting his colleague and neighbor, clarinetist Evan Arntzen, to the stage for a dozen memorable minutes.

The tender and evocative THAT OLD FEELING:

The song I call CHANGES MADE (and then someone insists that THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE is the properly pious title . . . . what-ever):

I dream of a venue and an occasion where Dalton and Evan could play as long as they wanted . . .

May your happiness increase!

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JOPLIN, JOHNSON, JELLY, and MAX: MAX KEENLYSIDE PLAYS (Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, Sedalia, Missouri, May 31, 2018)

Max Keenlyside at the 2018 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival. Photograph by Stoptime Photo.

The young Canadian piano wizard Max Keenlyside is a fine player and composer, and we had a delightful brief meeting in person at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, where he played an untitled and incomplete Joplin piece that I’ve titled FRAGMENTS OF JOPLIN.  Music here:

I didn’t catch it all on video, but Max told me later that Joplin’s widow, Lottie, gave Brun Campbell a photo of Joplin at the piano, where there is visible part of an otherwise unknown Joplin composition, which Max transcribed, played, and amplified on.  (Max also told me that “the full story was written about at length, I think, by Chris Ware in an issue of The Ragtime Ephemeralist, which surely must now be as rare as hens’ teeth.”)

Max’s musical range is broad, as you will see and hear, and I think it’s splendid that he might allow audience members to pick the program from his list.  One he chose was James P. Johnson’s romp, RIFFS:

His next piece, Harold Arlen’s lovely IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON, so captivated me that I posted it right after the Festival — but since I can’t be sure that everyone’s already enjoyed it, I post it here again.  Fats peeks in now and again, but it’s all Max:

Then, some Morton episodes, always welcome.  First, THE PEARLS, which encapsulates the Master at the piano:

and from the Library of Congress recordings, SPANISH SWAT

A properly vigorous TIGER RAG, complete with elbow:

To conclude the set, a new composition by Max, which he explains, THE RED MOON:

And not incidentally, the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival will take place next year from May 29 to June 1, 2019.  I’ll tell you more about it as I know . . . because I plan to be in Sedalia, Missouri, for that weekend of joy.

May your happiness increase!

MR. WALLER SWINGS BY (Part Two): THE HOLLAND-COOTS JAZZ QUINTET at the SCOTT JOPLIN INTERNATIONAL RAGTIME FESTIVAL (Sedalia, Missouri: May 31, 2018)

From left: Marc Caparone, cornet; Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Steve Pikal, string bass.

On my most recent visit to my electro-cardiologist (don’t worry, now) we were discussing nutrition, as we often do, and she said, kindly but vehemently, about olive oil, “You know, Mr. Steinman, fat fuels the brain!”  Or at least that’s what I think she said.  I preferred to hear it as “Fats fuels the brain!” which — as medical advice — is even more sound.  And true for me.

The Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet has a special affinity for the music of Fats Waller — his own compositions as well as those he made his own.  It’s not surprising: Mister Waller’s particular swing and playfulness fits well with this contemporary group’s joyous approach.

If the fellows above are not familiar to you, you’ve been missing out on quite a lot of good jive (do you know their debut CD, which is also a Fats mini-concert?): from left, Marc Caparone, cornet / vocal; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums; Evan Arntzen, reeds / vocal; Brian Holland, piano.

One of the high points of my 2018 was the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival (May-June, Sedalia, Missouri) was an evening concert devoted to Fats’ music.  I was there with my camera — wild electro-cardiologists couldn’t keep me away — and here is the first part of the HCJQ’s Fats set.  Notice that they honor the original recordings but they don’t copy them.

WHOSE HONEY ARE YOU? (a song by Danny’s great-uncle, J. Fred Coots, in a performance that has everything — vocal effects front and back, Evan’s whimsical vocal, and a scorching stop-time chorus by Marc):

The 1929 MINOR DRAG (or is it HARLEM FUSS?  You decide):

Two hot, one sweet: Evan’s crooning LET’S PRETEND THAT THERE’S A MOON:

Something from Marc Caparone, a most amenable sort: I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

More to come from this fine bunch of rascals.  I’m following this band to the STOMPTIME cruise, my maiden voyage, so to speak, in spring 2019.  Details here.

May your happiness increase!

DALTON (RIDENHOUR) SUMMONS EUBIE (BLAKE): Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, Sedalia, Missouri, June 2, 2018

In the nineteen-seventies in New York City, I had the immense good fortune of watching and hearing Eubie Blake at close range.  He’d be introduced from the audience and eagerly take the stage to perform his compositions in a wonderful orchestral style.

Dalton Ridenhour, photograph by Aidan Grant

I had the immense good fortune of watching and hearing Dalton Ridenhour at close range during the 2018 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival.  Here, the brilliant young Missouri native pays his own evocative idiosyncratic tribute to Eubie (with hints of James P. Johnson, Earl Hines, and others): the songs are LOVE WILL FIND A WAY, BANDANA DAYS, MEMORIES OF YOU.

“Bravo!” shouts the man at the end.  I agree.  And Eubie would too.

May your happiness increase!

MR. WALLER SWINGS BY (Part One): THE HOLLAND-COOTS JAZZ QUINTET at the SCOTT JOPLIN INTERNATIONAL RAGTIME FESTIVAL (Sedalia, Missouri: May 31, 2018)

The Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, photograph by Amy Holland, 2017, Nashville, Tenn.

The Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet has a special affinity for the music of Fats Waller — his own compositions as well as those he made his own.  It’s not surprising: Mister Waller’s particular swing and playfulness fits well with this contemporary group’s joyous approach.

If the fellows above are not familiar to you, you’ve been missing out on quite a lot of good jive (do you know their debut CD, which is also a Fats mini-concert?): from left, Marc Caparone, cornet / vocal; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums; Evan Arntzen, reeds / vocal; Brian Holland, piano.

One of the high points of the 2018 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival (May-June, Sedalia, Missouri) was an evening concert devoted to Fats’ music.  I’ve posted performances by Dalton Ridenhour, and duets between Neville Dickie and Danny Coots, but here’s the first part of the wonderful offering by the HCJQ.  Notice that they honor the original recordings but they don’t copy them.

MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’, composed by Benny Carter for the 1943 motion picture STORMY WEATHER:

KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW, tenderly sung by Evan, with the verse:

The rollicking I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED, sung by Marc:

And the beautiful LONESOME ME:

Finally, some original Wallerizing — a hot sonata for Arntzen and Pikal, called PHAT SWOLLER:

More to come!  (Incidentally, I’m following this band on to Baby’s first-ever cruise . . . but don’t let me influence you unduly.  Details here.)

May your happiness increase!

CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES IN SEDALIA: The HOLLAND-COOTS JAZZ QUINTET WITH DANCERS (Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, June 1, 2018): BRIAN HOLLAND, DANNY COOTS, MARC CAPARONE, EVAN ARNTZEN, STEVE PIKAL

On with the dance!  Let joy be unconfined!

Here are selections from the Cakewalk held on June 1, 2018, at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival: expert dancers from hither and yon, music provided by Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Marc Caparone, cornet.

And the premise was the great variety of popular / dance music dancers would have enjoyed in the early decades of the last century.  We enjoyed it too.

Let’s start with a tender bit of Americana, Irving Berlin’s WHAT’LL I DO?

“Look, Ma!  They’re coming down the street!” BUGLE BOY MARCH:

That raucous Jass music: ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JAZZ BAND ONE-STEP:

Tony Jackson’s PRETTY BABY:

Old New Orleans, CREOLE BELLES:

And back to Mr. Berlin, with ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND:

I hope you moved the furniture and invited the neighbors.  The HCJQ can do anything, sweet or hot, it seems to me.

May your happiness increase!

STEVE PIKAL, “SWINGIN’ THE BASS,” with DALTON RIDENHOUR at the 2018 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival (June 1, 2018)

Steve Pikal, characteristically morose. Photograph by Andrea Canter.

String bassist / perpetual motion machine Steve Pikal is a marvelous force of nature.  Ask any musician who has been privileged to play alongside him.  His time is splendid, his inventiveness astonishing, his energy a delight.  He has perfect pitch — you can’t lose him! — and he finds the right notes.  He takes his playing tremendously seriously, but his work is joyous, and his ego almost invisible.  When I suggested to him that I do a bass-instruction video about him, he laughed and said he was self-taught so he didn’t know what he would have to offer.

Music elevates him, and the only time I’ve ever seen him without a smile is when he’s been studying a new chart with intentness.  I quote, “Swingin’ the Bass with all you great cats as often as I can is my mission. Gotta love it!!

What follows, slightly less than three minutes, is one of those occasions where I thank my lucky stars that I have a video camera and microphone, it was ready to go, and I was carrying it.

All through the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, free musical programs were sprinkling the air with notes — some a few blocks away at Gazebo Park, but most under the red-and-white tent pitched a block away from the Hotel Bothwell.  I had gone back to the hotel to get my camera and fresh batteries to record an evening’s concert performance, and was on my way to the theatre . . . when delightful strains of Swing filled the air.  It was Steve, apparently joining pianist Dalton Ridenhour for a number.  It sounded so good: jazz pheronomes, that I began to record the second half of their improvisation on MY BLUE HEAVEN, which owed a good deal to Walter Page and perhaps Johnny Guarnieri — but most of all to Pikal and Ridenhour. It makes me happy every time I revisit it:

I hope that the Fates offer another chance — when I am early and ready — to see, hear, and record Steve and Dalton again.  There will be a plenitude of Pikal-powered joy on this site (the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet and the Rock Island Roustabouts) and there are several new CDs that feature him, most notably GROOVUS (with Brian Holland and Danny Coots).

What a wonder he is, and how fortunate we are to have him.

May your happiness increase!