Ruby Fradkin,
Warmin' Up with Ragtime Ruby
(CDF, 2003)

I hate to mention it, but Ruby Fradkin is very young. Junior high school age. And I hate to mention it, because that means certain people are going to listen to Warmin' Up with Ragtime Ruby as a novelty album, with their ears tuned to catch any mistake. They'll be too busy admiring her pluck or maturity or some such irrelevant nonsense to notice that this is a solid ragtime album with no excuses necessary.

Fradkin specializes in ragtime, and has an obvious enjoyment for the bright, sometimes melodramatic style of her pieces. "Baby Face" and "Il Suriso" balloon along like carnival floats. "Bicycle Built For Two" conveys the proper flirtatious hesitancy while circling along its athletic beat. Even "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah," a tune almost designed to be annoying after the first repetition, gains a bouncy fullness from her arrangement. Her own original compositions, like "Ruby's Boogie," have a smart, jazzy feel that melds well with the old standards.

If Fradkin's age shows at all, it's in the precision and sharpness of her playing. Her style is sometimes a bit too careful, like she's afraid to stray too far off the written sheet. The tunes don't really suffer from it, but it makes the album sound a bit more like the soundtrack to a silent film and less like dance hall music. But exact playing is hardly a major flaw, and it's evident in performers with much more experience and fewer excuses than Fradkin. Her own joy in the music already shows in the conversations between her piano and other instruments, and she's sure to get more expressive as she learns more trust in her skills.

There is one important side effect of Fradkin's youth. She has a long career ahead of her. With luck, Ragtime Ruby will continue to make ragtime the modern musical style it was meant to be.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 10 October 2003

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