One hundred-two years after the publication of the Maple Leaf Rag, ragtime's distinction as America's first popular music is undisputed, as is the genius and vision of Scott Joplin, its greatest composer and most dedicated proponent.
The "weird and intoxicating effect" of the music Joplin largely shaped had a decidedly multi-ethnic appeal that broke through racial barriers and quickly captured the imagination, spirit and enthusiasm of its generation.
Though American music has undergone numerous transformations since the ragtime era, ragtime has never gone away. Today, its spirit lives on, in the many ragtime clubs, societies, festivals and concerts across the country, and through the contributions of new composers like Californian Ron Ross.
In Ragtime Renaissance, Ron builds on the traditions of the ragtime form and infuses it with his 21st century sensibility, full of inventiveness, wit, romanticism, charm and rhythmic vitality.
By day a stockbroker, Ron is a life-long musician and composer. Born in Detroit, he began formal schooling on the piano when he was only five. By his 13th birthday, his ear had already developed to the point where he could take songs he listened to on the radio and reconstruct them on the piano without the aid of sheet music.
Soon after, he started writing his own pieces and eventually left formal training. In the intervening years, Ron continued to foster his gift for composing. A self-described musical chameleon, he's absorbed and written in a variety of styles along the way. His compositional portfolio includes pop tunes, folk, country, comedy and movie music.
Interestingly, Ron didn't try his hand at ragtime until 1980, when he attempted, with unremarkable success, to learn some of Joplin's rags. He lost interest for several years but, in 1989, at the suggestion of a friend, attended his first meeting of the Los Angeles Maple Leaf Club. It was then that he caught the proverbial ragtime bug.
Ron says it took nine years of frequent ragtime listening (1989-98) in order for him to finally "get the rhythm." His resulting first rag, Rickety Rag, contains the trademarks he employs in all his rags: clever turnarounds, tempo breaks, chromatic scales, moving tonal centers and changing moods.
Just as the spirit of ragtime impassions Ron Ross, so his artistry will capture you. Whether it's the upbeat, show tune-like feel of Digital Rag and Sunday Serendipity, the lovely and evocative Joplinesque, Mirella and Sweet is the Sound, or the whimsical vocal numbers Studio Sensation and Good Thing Going (featuring an impeccable performance by 20's song stylist Janet Klein), you'll likely find yourself returning to Ragtime Renaissance and discovering something new and pleasurable each time.
(From liner notes by Gary Rametta-MC, Rose Leaf Ragtime Club of Pasadena)
Notes from the composer-performer:
This album is the outgrowth of my intention to share some of my musical ideas with the world, but especially with the wonderful members of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club. The Club, founded by the late P.J. (Phil) Schmidt in 1995 in Pasadena, California, has been a constant inspiration to me. The fact that there was a place I could go, once a month, and present new musical ideas to a receptive and interested audience, was very instrumental (pun intended) in inspiring me to compose whenever the muse struck. And it struck quite frequently during the period from late 1998 through late 1999. Most of these pieces were written in that time frame, but some preceded it (STUDIO SENSATION-reflections on the music business, 1981; and SMALL TOWN PRIVATE EYE-written for a short film in which I played the title character, in 1987) and a couple came later (GOOD THING GOING-2000, and JOPLINESQUE---2001).