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Chicago Tribune, Feb. 11, 2002
Red Rose warms room with ragtime

By Howard Reich

Jazz lovers may not consider Lake Forest exactly a hot spot for the music,
even if the great Bix Beiderbecke lived there briefly as a student.
But each winter the suburb starts to swing, thanks to the indispensable Cabin
Fever Jazz series, which opened over the weekend in Lake Forest's Gorton
Community Center. If subsequent installments in the Sunday afternoon series prove
as appealing as the opener, Lake Forest should be very hot indeed this winter.
Certainly Joan Reynolds and the Red Rose Ragtime Jazz Band played an
exuberant kick-off concert for Cabin Fever Jazz, which this year is celebrating "Women
in Jazz." And though Reynolds heads a mostly male ensemble, her 20-plus year
tenure as leader of this group has made her a noteworthy figure among women in
early jazz in Chicago and beyond.
More important, her band dispatched classic ragtime and historic jazz fare
with verve and scholarship. For even though the performances sounded vivid and
fresh, they consistently respected the conventions of music conceived nearly a
century ago.
For starters, one had to admire the tempos that Reynolds and friends chose,
which avoided the hurried pace that often characterizes modern versions of
vintage ragtime. Nothing about the music of Joseph Lamb, James Scott or other
ragtime giants suggests that the tempos were nearly as frenetic as many of today's
performers believe. Reynolds' band underscored the point, taking a generally
leisurely pace that allowed every melodic strand and rhythmic detail to be
heard and savored.

One would expect no less from an ensemble that includes such early jazz
specialists as the sensitive trumpeter Bob Neighbor, the sublime clarinetist Kim
Cusack and the unflappable drummer Wayne Jones. Add to the mix the fluid
virtuosity of banjo player Leah Bezin, the ebullient solos of trombonist Tom Bartlett
and the imperturbable bass lines of tuba player Chris Strind, and you have
one of the country's best vintage jazz units.
In the ensemble passages of "The Love Nest," a tune associated with
Beiderbecke, Cusack unfurled silken lines, while Neighbor's muted horn provided warm
support. And in "Camp Meeting Blues," Cusack, Neighbor and Bartlett crafted
exquisitely detailed counterpoint.
Ragtime bandleaders who work from the piano often overstate their part, but
Reynolds remains the beguiling exception. In four- and eight-bar solos, her
touch proved sparkling but never overbearing or lacking in clarity. Finally,
Reynolds played James P. Johnson's "Snowy Morning Blues," in a solo version, with
uncommon delicacy and grace.


APRIL 2006 - Jazz Journal

A lot of preparation and thought went into these trim performances.  Transcriptions from the original recordings, and some detailed arrangements, have been done very well in authentic vintage style by pianst/leader Joan Reynolds.  The repertoire includes many colourful and seldom heard tunes.  Generally speaking the rags and cakewalks are played in classic ragtime orchestral style, with perhaps a touch of Turk Murphy.  For the other material the style overall leans towards the twenties hot dance and jazz with Davis's neat relaxed lead suggesting Red Nichols at times - e.g. in Coral Gables - with occasional touches of Bix.  Joan Reynolds is primarily a ragtime pianist in approach.  She contributes well-executed solos in Pineapple Rag, Sugar Cane (understandably, it seems to me, rejected by Joplin's usual publisher as a 're-hash' of Maple Leaf Rag) and in her jazziest offering, a well-played rendering of Snowy Morning Blues.  Kusack and Bartlett play capably in appropriate style, with Ley's tuba actively supportive in ensemble, and in adding depth and texture to various scored passages.  As jazz performances some tracks - e.g. Oliver's I Must Have It - sound too polite and contained, and jog along amiably, without developing much lift or drive.  In ontrast, the band lets its hair down in an exhilarating uptempo workout on The Terror.  I also particularly liked The Pearls, performed very well from a Turk Murphy arrangement.  All in all, an enjoyable album, with informative notes.

-Hugh Rainey


iarjcIAJRC Journal May 2006
Four years after their Chicago Buzz CD (reviewed in the Spring 2004 Journal), The Red Rose Ragtime Band has returned to the studios to deliver twenty mostly obscure oldies with the fresh sound attributed to thid Chicagoland based trad band lead by pianist Joan Reynolds.  Except for Art Davis on Trumpet and Steve Ley on tuba, the band is the same as heard previously.  However, this CD showcases the leader quite more prominently with four solo features: "Pine Apple Rag", "Snowy Morning Blues," "Sugar Cane" and "Key-Stone."  Two of these being Scott Joplin tunes helps give the CD much more of the ragtime feel, as might be expected from the band's name.  "Snowy Morning," however, is a wonderful tribute to James P Johnson and captures his stride style perfectly.  The opening title song and closer, "The Terror" are Cliff Jackson originals recorded by him with his Krazy Kats (named after the famous George Herriman comic strip) in 1930.  These RRRB versions surely hold their own and bookend this CD beautifully with a very hot opening and slightly subdued  closing.  Tom Bartlett handles a sprightly vocal "My Pet" contrasting sharply with the close harmony vocal on the 1928 Paul Whiteman version that included Bing Crosby's scatting on the release of that version.  Other titles are derived from the likes of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Nacio Herb Brown among others.  A worthy successor to the Chicago Buzz album, Horse Feathers also contains detailed liner notes by fellow IAJRC member, JIm Williams.  Highly recommended for trad and ragtime lovers.
-Perry Huntoon


Comments and Reviews on Jazz By Mail website:

6/11/2009 9:58:19 AM: (by Peg Nash)
Keep trying to find Joan and Mac's home address as I wanted to sent a note last spring after their accident. Was really concerned and glad to hear they are doing better and Joan is playing again. Joan went out of her way to make tapes for my husband, Ed Nash, who was a real Jazz fan. We had enjoyed probably at least 20 years of listening to her band from Long Grove, Lake Forest to Cedarburg and Milwaukee! Thanks for ALL THAT JAZZ! Peg Nash

7/28/2007 3:46:11 PM: red rose ragtime band (by frank williams)

excellent release by stomp off the tune SATAN'S CAKEWALK is a beautiful in the 1920's slang dictonary the word HORSEFEATHERS meant "everythings ok" as is this cd

12/8/2005 11:00:13 AM: Horse Feathers (by Barb Sullivan)
I saw the RRRB at the Bix Beiderbecke festival in Davenport, and I had to buy their CD! I like to listen to it any time, and it always makes me want to dance! It's happy music.


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