Jack Rummel

It’s A Bear!

Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra

Stomp Off CD 1411


Ridin’ de Goat / Too Much Raspberry / Panama / Alexander’s Ragtime Band* / Tambourines and Oranges / Are You From Dixie?* / The Buffalo Rag / Lazy Jazz Waltz / untitled fox trot / Operatic Rag / Some Sweet Day* / Maxixe Briolette / Kansas City Blues / Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble / Down In Honky Tonky Town / Walkin’ the Dog* / Russian Rag / La Danza Appassionata / Chicken Walk / Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave To Me* / That Eccentric Rag / The Honolulu Rag (introducing Cotton Time). (*Vocal.)


            It’s good to see Bruce Vermazen, late of the Chrysanthemum Ragtime Band, back with another ensemble.  He and Bob Pinsker organized the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra to play for a San Diego vintage dance group and something apparently jelled, for here they are with a CD.

            The HRO uses period arrangements designed for small theater orchestras (many from Vermazen’s extensive library) but with a unique touch: a saxophone is included and often plays the part originally scored for cello.  With the exception of The Buffalo Rag (1904), all selections from this extremely varied playlist are from the second decade of the Twentieth Century when new dance steps were permutating across the country.

            Opening with a brash trombone smear (Ridin’ de Goat), the HRO continues with one-steps (Are You From Dixie , Some Sweet Day, Down in Honky Tonky Town ), tangos (Panama , La Danza Appassionata), a waltz (Lazy Jazz Waltz), some solid rags (Too Much Raspberry, The Buffalo Rag, Operatic Rag, Russian Rag, That Eccentric Rag) and a collection of other eminently danceable tunes.  The vocals by various band members are pleasant diversions.

            Several pieces topped my list.  Certainly the “untitled fox trot” from the pen of Eubie Blake (and receiving its premiere performance here as a piano solo [by Bob Pinsker]) is an event to be noted.  Now that it’s been brought out of obscurity it deserves a title!  Other favorites were Ridin' de Goat (and I thought Car-Barlick Acid was the only piece to come out of Oskaloosa, Iowa), the lovely but unsyncopated Lazy Jazz Waltz, the always-popular Russian Rag, the fowl-sounding Chicken Walk, and the expert blending of The Honolulu Rag with Cotton Time.

            The release features excellent recorded sound, extensive liner notes and the high class artwork that has become Stomp Off’s hallmark.  While not exhibiting the crisp precision of some currently popular ragtime orchestras, the ensemble produces a very warm, friendly sound that will suit both listeners and dancers alike.  It’s not perfectly clear whether the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra will continue to perform and record or whether it was organized just for the San Diego dance group.  We will hope for the former. [Webmaster's note: It is certainly our fervent intention to continue and expand our performing and recording activities!]

            Available for $16.00 postpaid from Stomp Off Records, P.O. Box 342 , York, PA 17405 .