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The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra
San Diego, California

Home Ragtime, Early Jazz and Blues Research Lemuel J. Fowler - His Life and Music

San Diego's Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra was founded in early 2005 by pianist Bob Pinsker and cornetist and author Bruce Vermazen, originally to provide accompaniment for ragtime-era events put on by the San Diego Vintage Dancers. Co-leader Pinsker is also a historian of the music and a collector of sheet music, piano rolls, and the like. Vermazen, exiled from the San Francisco Bay area, mined a well regarded San Diego concert band, the Hillcrest Wind Ensemble, for musicians, and four of the original six are still with the HRO: John Winkelman (tuba), who directs the Hillcrest group, Fernando Herrera (flute, piccolo and alto sax), a computer whiz, Patrick McMahon (tenor sax), whose terrific memoir (Becoming Patrick) about being an adopted child was published a few years ago, and co-leader Vermazen. The six musicians who joined the group as the years passed are the concertmistress and music director, respectively of the North Coast Symphony Orchestra, Cheryl and Dan Swem (violins), Josh Mills (clarinet and alto sax), Ken Lemke (cornet), Phil Imming of the Coronado Concert Band (trombone), and Suzanne Tractenberg (drums). They are all very sought after in San Diego, and the Heliotrope is lucky to have them.

The orchestra takes its name from the wonderful 1907 Louis Chauvin-Scott Joplin rag "Heliotrope Bouquet." The delicate and fragrant heliotrope's behavior, a constant turning toward the sun as the day passes, makes a good metaphor for San Diego's affinity for sunshine.

The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra started out aiming to reproduce the authentic sound of a dance band from the height of the ragtime era, say, about 1915, but in recent years it has extended its repertoire to include pieces from the 1920s by King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, among others. It has been featured at the Orange County RagFest 2005-2013, has played at several events for the San Diego Vintage Dancers,the San Diego ballroom dance organization Waltz & Such, charity events, etc., will be featured for the 15th consecutive year at the 2019 San Diego Jazz Fest, and is now available for your event - be it a wedding, Bar Mitzvah, what have you! Contact either of the co-leaders, Bruce Vermazen or Bob Pinsker, at the email address made up of their names in the form 'brucev' or 'bobp', plus the '@' sign, plus the address '' (without any of the quotes). (Sorry about that awkwardness, but it's to cut down on spam.)
The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra: Schedule for 2020

America's Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society Monthly Concert
Sunday, February 16, 2020, 1 pm - 4 pm
Tio Leo's Mexican Restaurant
5302 Napa Street, San Diego, CA 92110
More information and tickets can be found here
Heliotrope Hot Eight
Friday, February 28, 2020, 7 pm - 9 pm
Panama 66 at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park
Admission is free!
More information on Panama 66 is here

The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra is pleased to announce the release of its third CD - SAS-PA-TORIOUS! on our own label, Eupepsia Records! Here's the cover:

The CD (apparently a form of music distribution which is only very slightly less obsolete than the shellac 78 rpm phonograph record and the Edison cylinder) is available at, and will soon be available for purchase RIGHT HERE! Watch this space!

HRO was fortunate to be joined on about half the tracks on SAS-PA-TORIOUS by the celebrated banjo virtuoso Katie Cavera. Thanks, Katie!

Jack Rummel's positive review (again, thanks, Jack!) is available here.

The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra was very happy to act as San Diego singer-songwriter Gregory Page's backup band for a recording that Page used as the soundtrack for a video entitled BEAUTIFUL. Page used our track to back him in a live performance a few years later, which you can view here! You will hear Gregory tell a story about the recording session which does not quite line up with our memory of that session, but it's charming nonetheless. (By the way, we're not quite as superannuated as Page portrays us . . . )

The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra's second CD was THAT'S GOING SOME! on Stomp Off Records. Here's the cover:

Jack Rummel's review of this one has come out! Take a look here to read this quite favorable notice - thanks, Jack!

The first Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra CD, IT'S A BEAR! (StompOff CD1411) is available for purchase from Stomp Off Records and at selected music stores. Here's the cover:


The reviews (at least one) are in! Jack Rummel reviewed "It's A Bear!" on the website. For a copy of Rummel's positive review, click here!