Cornetist and bandleader Claes Ringqvist lives in Sweden. His professional career is in medicine, but he is a long-time fan of ragtime and traditional jazz. As an expert in both medical and musical charts, Claes (pronounced Klaus) leads the Barfota Jazzmen, which comprises players, most of whom also had medical training. He was in San Francisco for a conference on cardiac medicine and had a chance to stop by KUSF for an interview on my weekly program, The Ragtime Machine. -- DR
David Reffkin: How much of your musical interests are in the area of ragtime?
Claes Ringqvist: It is about 50-50 along with traditional jazz. We started up as a trad jazz band, inspired by Bunk Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton. But as the years passed by, I got more and more interested in ragtime. I had been a devoted listener to New Orleans music for many, many years. The first time I visited that city, the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, with Lars Edegran and Orange Kellin, was playing. I got interested in the orchestrations of ragtime, which we play, including the violin part, and there was no improvisation, purely ragtime.
DR: I noticed that some of your players were described as not being too familiar with the style of music until they started playing with your band.
CR: Yes, our violin player (Svante Nordell) is a very classically trained violinist, and he didn't know anything about ragtime when he started. He could read notes very well. When he started playing ragtime he was totally hooked on it. The other guys, too, they are pretty good readers, even the drummer.
DR: As a violinist, I know it takes skill and also a real affinity for the music to play those parts well. Do you play them as written without adapting them in any way?
CR: It's a hard job to work through the arrangements before we can reckon them, so to speak. Some of them are pretty tricky, but our sousaphone player (Bengt "Bim" Ingelstam) is a good arranger, and he writes original arrangements as well. We tailor each piece for our band
DR: Have you ever expanded the group, since the charts usually call for about 11 players or so?
CR: We have eight players. No, we have to exclude some of the parts, because we haven't got the instruments.
DR: Does your pianist (Ake Dahlback) play the rags as solo pieces, too?
DR: I consider the old arrangers of these pieces among the heroes of the music.
CR: Yes. For example we play "Echoes from the Snowball Club," and I know there is a full orchestration of it, though I'm not quite sure who did it. (It was arranged by Floy Haines.) I understand that one of John Stark's sons was an arranger.