KEYBOARD MAGAZINE: MARCH, 2003!!!
"RAGTIME" RUBY FRADKIN / WARMIN' UP
At an age when most people would be just practicing scales, 12-year-old "Ragtime" Ruby Fradkin has already completed her first CD, the aptly-titled Warmin' Up. The CD is a collection of standards and originals that showcases her developing talent amidst a host of seasoned pros. Her nimble touch and dedication to the ragtime style make these dozen songs a special treat for those who are ragtime fans as well as casual listeners. Ruby shines on classics like "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and Joplin's whimsical "Swipesy," while her own songs, such as "Walkin' the Beat" and the upbeat "Catchin' the Keys," express a musical sensibility far beyond her years. Fradkin has been gigging around L.A. (when her homework schedule permits) and has a great head start to a career on the piano. Warming up indeed!
(CDF Productions, www.ragtimeruby.com)
-- Robbie Gennet
SOUTHLAND BLUES MAGAZINE: MARCH, 2003!!!
RAGTIME RUBY / WARMIN' UP
Boogie Woogie and stride piano come in all shapes and sizes. Ragtime Ruby makes this traditional form easy to like. Her smooth, loping interpretations lend a "feel good" aura to any gathering. And she's only 12 years old. Ruby's tailored her program so that half the selections appeal as easy-to-sing-along-with favorite songs, while the other half wrestle with the tradition of stride and boogie-woogie improvisation. Familiar songs such as "Zip-A-Dee-Doo Dah," "Bicycle Built For Two" and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" share the program with animated originals like "Ruby's Boogie," "Walkin' The Beat" and "Ruby's Old Boogie." To broaden the scope of each selection, Ruby enlists the support of two or three accompanists at a time. Freebo lends an interesting timbre on tuba. His solo spot on "Baby Face" brings the arrangement even closer to our hearts. Guitarist Stevie Gurr, who offers some great slide work on "Catchin' the Keys," provides a fine rhythmic complement. His blues harmonica solo on the final track alongside Jerry Peterson's beltin' baritone saxophone creates a sensational and fitting coda. Whether she's warming up an audience of youngsters or oldsters, or maybe just improvising with her natural flair, pre-teen pianist Ragtime Ruby packs a powerful punch for music lovers of all ages.
-- Jim Santella
"TOP 25 BLUES ALBUM - JANUARY & FEBRUARY LIVING BLUES POLL" AT KNON 89.3 FM, DALLAS, TEXAS!!!
THE TOLUCAN TIMES: OCTOBER 23, 2002!!!
RAGTIME RUBY FRADKIN IS 'WARMIN' UP'
"Warmin' Up with Ragtime Ruby Fradkin" is the debut CD from the 12-year-old piano phenom Ruby Fradkin.
Recorded when she was 11, the disc presents Fradkin in the environs of a New Orleans supper club the day after Mardi Gras.
Her piano bubbles and percolates in the wash of Victor Bisetti's (Los Lobos, John Lee Hooker) brushwork, Tim Emmons' (Cab Calloway) upright bass, Stevie Gurr's (Dr. John, Elvin Bishop) ever on-the-money guitar, and Freebo's (Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur) tuba.
With her original boogies, Fradkin calls forth the playfulness of Count Basie. In her piano/tuba romps she reminds one of Johnnie Johnson. On the album as a whole, she projects the elegance and style of a Booker T. Jones.
Exquisitely recorded and mastered, the disc presents young Fradkin in a lush accessible format (a pleasant cross-section of duet and ensemble work).
A fixture on the Los Angeles club scene (Kulak's Woodshed, Old Town Music Hall, The Silent Movie Theatre) Fradkin has the style and tenacity to make a national splash.
The CD is available at cdbaby.com.
KPFK, Los Angeles, CA
WETA, Alexandria, VA
KGNU, Boulder, CO
KNON, Dallas, TX
KASU, State University, AR
KSBR, Mission Viejo, CA
KUSF, San Francisco, CA
KVMR, Nevada City, CA
WUCF, Orlando, FL
WHOLE WHEAT RADIO, Talkeetna, AK
RADIO 666, Caen, France
Pasadena Star-News October 24, 2003 ~
Ragtime Ruby is on a roll
By Steven D. Harris
Move over, Scott Joplin. Likewise, Jelly Roll. Make way for Southern California's own extraordinaire of the ivories, Ruby Fradkin, aka Ragtime Ruby. This dainty miss whose keyboard reach is a mere octave can pound out some mean arpeggios and then some. She may be the only gal her age to tackle the art of boogie-woogie, blues, ragtime and stride -- and she's successful at all of the above.
In fact, Ruby attacks the keyboard with all the authority and assurance of a major league prodigy. Pretty impressive for one who just turned thirteen. Ruby performs Sunday evening at the Coffee Gallery in Altadena. Alternating on the bill are Savoir Fair (a song and dance trio who specialize in songs from the '30s) and Clay Mitchell.
While many new teenagers suffer the turmoil of such awkward years, this eighth-grader is cool and collected in the present. Or maybe she's just too busy to contemplate growing up. Ruby's got an itinerary of bookings almost every week. In the last few years, she's played for music halls, colleges and 400-seat theaters.
She was even awarded a Certificate of Honor by the state's governor. Most recently, she wowed an audience of 800 at last month's Sweet & Hot Festival in Los Angeles. Her first CD, recorded in September of last year, has received glorious reviews. It's called "Warmin' Up with Ragtime Ruby'' and is available through her own web site at ragtimeruby.com.
The youthful star talked with U this week from her home in Sherman Oaks:
Q. Tell us about your early training and your first public performance at age 9.
A. I started playing when I was six. Our neighbors next door were taking classical piano lessons. I hung out with them and wanted to start playing myself. About my second year, my dad showed me a few Christmas carols (arranged for) left hand stride. That was a lot more exciting; I connected more with that than classical.
Then I started playing at local nursing homes in the area for the old folks. They loved it, because I played all the old things they grew up with like "Baby Face'' and "A Bicycle Built For Two.'' I even got some tips. I once played at a retirement home where, every time I played a certain note, it would stick and wouldn't come up. My dad helped by lifting the key every time I would play the note.
Q. You're also a composer. How many tunes have you written to date?
A. About four boogies and some blues. I tend to play or compose a lot of stuff in C because there's no sharps or flats. But the rags I have to learn are sometimes in E flat or D flat. I don't transpose a lot, but for the "Maple Leaf Rag,'' I end it by reprising part of the first section. But it comes from the third section, so it's in a different key.
(At this point, Ruby sits at her piano to demonstrate.)
Q. Of all the styles you incorporate, do you have a preference?
A. I like all of them in different ways. The blues and boogies I write are a lot of fun. It's like if you're in the groove, you don't need to get every note perfect. You play whatever comes. With ragtime, it's more challenging 'cause it's a lot more work. You have to keep it up with practicing.
Q. How did you discover the old-fashioned music that you've grown to love?
A. I got into ragtime by going to the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club in Pasadena. They take place the last Sunday of every month and all the ragtime players get up and play a few songs each. That's where I first heard the music and then I got into the blues.
Q. Have you any interest in the historical aspect of the music?
A. I know some history but not as much as I would like. I haven't listened to that many players. One of my favorite blues artists is Johnnie Johnson who played with Chuck Berry for years. In fact, I wrote a boogie in his style as a tribute to him. A more contemporary rag time favorite is Morton Gunnar Larsen from Norway. I also enjoy Count Basie.
Q. How do you balance music and school?
A. I did rags in the talent show last year and also the talent show in elementary school. But I'm not in the school band or anything. Actually the choir teacher at my school has been showing me some licks and coaching me; he's a really good piano player.
Q. Do you get stage fright?
A. Audiences don't scare me; I'm pretty comfortable. I can get a little shaky but not too much. Once I get on stage and the audience is supportive, it becomes fun, even easy. Like at the Coffee Gallery; it's a great crowd every time I play there.
Q.You appeared in YM magazine. How does it feel to be picked among YM's "20 Coolest Girls in America''?
A. It's so exciting! I found out about it the day after it came out. I walked into my first class at school and everyone was saying my name and showing me the magazine. It was really hard to focus at school for the rest of the day.
Q. How many hours do you spend practicing?
A. It just depends. I don't spend hours everyday since I have homework and other chores. It's preparing for the next gig usually, or doing exercises to get my fingers in a good place for a certain song I might perform.
Q. From all reports, you were one of the highlights at the recent Sweet & Hot festival.
A. It was my first festival ever. I was a guest artist, so I didn't have a featured spot, but I played every day. I asked all the leaders of the different bands if I could sit in to play some blues. That's how I met Herb Jeffries. I introduced myself and said, "I wanted to know if I could sit in with your bass and drum player.'' He said, "I don't know. I'm just the singer; I'll have to check.''
So it didn't sound like I would get the chance. So I went upstairs and found someone to play with. After a few minutes, some people came looking for me saying, "Herb has introduced you three times already! Where have you been?'' So I rushed downstairs and played "Over the Rainbow.''
Q. Herb is indeed a 92-year-old institution. Did you realize how famous he was at the time?
A. I didn't know who he was. Afterwards, I thanked him in the lobby. Herb told me that when he was real young, he had asked Louis Armstrong if he could sit in with his band. Louis said yes, so that's why Herb said yes to me. After the festival, I researched him on line and found out everything about him. I talked to him over the phone a few days later and he invited me down to Oceanside for a retrospective on his life and I played a few songs with him.
Q. What would you like to do in the future?
A. I'm not exactly sure. Wherever life leads me is what I'd say. I don't want to force any thing on, I just want to go where I'm meant to go. One of my dream gigs would be to perform a duet with Norah Jones. It would feel really good to know I've gotten that far.
L.A. JAZZ SCENE: SEPTEMBER, 2002
ELEVEN-YEAR OLD PIANIST IS ROCK SOLID CITIZEN
What's it like to spend the days in school, walking through halls between classes, surrounded by the chatter of fellow middle schoolers, breaking for lunch, back in the class, cramming your head full of history dates, geologic periods, off to home to finish your projects, hang with the folks, play with your dolls, then off to sleep? Sounds like a full routine for an 11-year old? You're right, but that's only part of Ruby Fradkin's week.
Ruby, known professionally as Ragtime Ruby, is a stride pianist who plays with musicians of the like that most pros would kill to be in the same room with, much less than on the same stage with on a weekly basis.
Fradkin, who made a name for herself as the girl in the Fox spot playing "Tom Dooley" for the elderly last spring, has received accolades from Governor Gray Davis, Girls' Life magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and a host of local news shows for her energized performances for the area's seniors.
But these days, she's playing for a different crowd. . .
It's Tuesday night at Kulak's Woodshed, a North Hollywood musician's co-op where some of the west coast's most talented players congregate to work out new material, put a fresh spin on the old, and hopefully reconnect with the spirit of the muse.
Tonight is Freebo's night. Freebo, who has worked with Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur, was introduced to the young pianist last year by harmonicist David McKelvy. "She was looking for a tuba player, and I invited her to come down and play." And play she did. A piano-tuba duo with Freebo every Tuesday, hosting her own nights when time permits, and in general, jamming with any and all of the musicians who happen to pass through the doors.
Says musician Brad Kay, "She has this imperturbable focus, rock-solid meter, and a left hand that's tighter than most of the pros in town. She's an inspiration!" And so she is. Watching her lead the band on the St. Louis Blues, an ensemble made up of Shane Fontayne, Stevie Gurr, and Dave McKelvy, musicians who have played with Springsteen, Dr. John and Nelson Riddle, I'm witness to a musician who "takes charge." The preteen counts off the songs, she cues the players, she runs the show. "It's quite a feat for an 11-year-old," begroans a session player, torn between admiration and envy.
Later in the week it's girl time. In a side project called "The Sweety Sisters," Ruby is part of a vaudeville trio made up of vocalist Janet Klein (Janet Klein and Her Parlour Boys) and tap dancer/author/choreographer Rusty Frank (author of Tap! The Greatest Tapdance Stars and Their Stories:1900-1955). They're running through their repertoire which for the time being is focusing on 30s material by Baby Rose Marie. It's a welcome relief to be with her buds, but the arrangements are challenging her. "It's more structured than the material I usually play, and there's a lot more (chord) changes," says Fradkin during a break at rehearsal.
The women are very supportive. Says Frank, "I love Ruby. We're sisters in the sense that we're both in love with the old music. Plus, she's a really nice kid."
Before a recent TV taping, Ruby is rearranging her material with bassist/host Ritt Henn. The show tapes in 30 minutes and they're running arrangements with guitarist/songwriter Hirth Martinez. One of the numbers they're running is an Italian waltz called Il Sorriso (Happy Smile) popularized by Frank Fazio's banjo recording in the 30s. She learned the song from guitarist Tom Marion, and now she's polishing it up for Henn's syndicated comedy/music show "A Man, A Bass, and a Box of Stuff."
"On the repeat," she says to Martinez, "I'll leave more space and you fill it in." She demonstrates what she wants and the guitarist fills it in appropriately. During the taping, Henn banters with Ruby about her newly acquired pet parakeet. Fradkin explains no, she hasn't settled on a name for the bird because she and her mom are uncertain about its sex. This segues into The Happy Smile, the closing credits roll, and an afternoon's work comes to a close.
Asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Fradkin offers, "I like kids, I like animals, I like the old people, obviously I like playing piano." She pauses and a mischievous look crosses her face. "Maybe I could be a veterinarian/schoolteacher for first graders, who plays piano for the old people in the homes -- and the clubs."
Looking towards the future with Ragtime Ruby Fradkin. Rock on, Ruby, Rock On!
-- Joey Alkes
Ragtime Ruby Fradkin appears September 28 at Shannon Center, Whittier College for an 8pm show. For tickets call (562)907-4203.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT "RAGTIME" RUBY FRADKIN. . .
Jim Diffey, Host of "Looking Back," KVMR-FM, Nevada City, CA
"A child prodigy...a talent to be reckoned with..."
Jack Rummel, Host of "Ragtime America," KGNU-FM, Boulder, CO
"A phenomenal player..."
Jeff Stone, Host of "The Ragtime Show," KSBR-FM, Mission Viejo, CA
"12-year-old piano prodigy..."
Whittier Daily News
"With her original boogies, Fradkin calls forth the playfulness of Count Basie."
The Tolucan Times
"Ragtime has a local youth ambassador..."
San Gabriel Valley Weekly
"Her songs express a musical sensibility far beyond her years."
Robbie Gennet, Keyboard Magazine
"Rah, rah Ruby!"
"She has a great touch."
Los Angeles Times
"Ruby Fradkin, young keyboard wizard."
The American Rag
"A young child with an old spirit."
Los Angeles Daily News
"... a musician who 'takes charge.'"
L.A. Jazz Scene
"Fradkin has the style and tenacity to make a national splash."
The Tolucan Times
"She then brought down the house by playing 'Swipesy Cakewalk.'"
"It's a little bit of magic when Ruby plays the blues."
Ron Ross, Songwriter
"She's a natural."
San Gabriel Valley Weekly
"An amazing pianist..."
Lara Reyes, Concord Records
"An excellent performance!"
"She's an inspiration!"
L.A. Jazz Scene
"She is going places."
"Rock on, Ruby, Rock On!"
L.A. Jazz Scene
"The place lights up like someone lit a fuse when Ruby plays the blues."
Ron Ross, Songwriter
"...she reminds one of Johnnie Johnson."
The Tolucan Times
WHEN RUBY PLAYS THE BLUES
Words & Music By Ron Ross
SHE STEPS UP TO THE PIANO
BARELY FIVE FEET TALL
GIVES THE BAND THE BEAT
AND SOON HER MUSIC FILLS THE HALL
SHE'S NO BIGGER THAN A MINUTE, BUT FOR HOURS
SHE CAN SHAKE YOU TO YOUR SHOES
IT'S A LITTLE BIT OF MAGIC THAT WE SEE
WHEN RUBY PLAYS THE BLUES
WELL, I CAME IN FEELING GLOOMY
PAIN WAS EVERYWHERE
BUT SHE SOCKED THAT RHYTHM TO ME
NOW I'M SOARIN' THROUGH THE AIR
'CAUSE HER MUSIC HAS A SPIRIT, WHEN YOU HEAR IT
YOUR SOUL JUST CAN'T REFUSE - CAN NOT REFUSE
IT'S ANOTHER SEVENTH WONDER OF THE WORLD
WHEN LITTLE RUBY PLAYS THE BLUES
NOW SHE STARTS OFF KINDA SIMPLE
JUST AN ORDINARY SCORE, BUT THEN SHE
MAKES THOSE KEYS PLAY MELODIES
THEY'VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE
IT'S A KIND OF PINT-SIZED MIRACLE
I THINK I WANNA GO AND SPREAD THE NEWS
BECAUSE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT IN YOUR LIFE
WHEN LITTLE RUBY PLAYS THE BLUES - ON THE PIANO -
THE PLACE LIGHTS UP LIKE SOMEONE LIT A FUSE
WHEN RUBY - LITTLE RUBY PLAYS THE BLUES
© 2002 BY RONROSS MUSIC --
12414 LANDALE STREET -- STUDIO CITY -- CA 91604