Jack Rummel



Craig Ventresco & Meredith Axelrod

(No label or number)


For My Sweetheart / Silver Bell / Springtime Rag / Combination March / Asleep in the Deep / Medley #1: In My Harem; If I Had a Girl Like You / Sogno Di Primavera / Swipesy Cake Walk / Blues / Medley #2: Mandy, Won’t You Let Me Be Your Beau; I’ll Be Your Rainbeau; Big Indian Chief / Something Doing / Medley #3: At the Devil’s Ball; Oh, That Navajo Rag / Elite Syncopation (sic) / St. Louis Tickle / Medley #4: Charleston Your Blues Away; Maybe.


            Many listeners will remember Craig Ventresco as the guitar genius of the “Bo Grumpus” trio that busked on the streets of San Francisco , played at several ragtime festivals and issued five well-received CDs.  That trio is now history, but Ventresco has resurfaced and reformatted as a duo with Meredith Axelrod.  Both enjoy researching tunes and rags from the 1890s to the 1930s and they have collected a bunch for your listening pleasure.

            While those selections by noted ragtime composers will be familiar to many, the rest of the tunes will be unfamiliar rarities.  Ventresco’s unique style manages to sound like a cross between flatpicking and fingerpicking, while behind his melody line Axelrod’s guitar provides the ever-appropriate chord structure and walking bass line – an absolutely vital component to the overall success of this album.

            The duo begins with a great opener, For My Sweetheart, which Ventresco picks on the mandolin.  Three other mandolin numbers add effective contrast – Medley #1, Medley #2 and St. Louis Tickle – as do four Ventresco guitar solos: Springtime Rag, Asleep in the Deep, Blues and Medley #3.  The medleys are all of songs from the ragtime era, with syncopation provided by Ventresco’s fertile mind.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their make-up but they are always enjoyable.

While the mandolin can always be counted on to provide an unmistakable melody, the guitar provides a wider range of dynamic subtleties. His guitar solos certainly prove that he can carry the ball alone, yet with the exception of the Blues, the duets with Axelrod are somehow more satisfying.  My favorite cut was the spot-on Something Doing – the best guitar version of this Joplin/Hayden collaboration I’ve heard.  Other favorites were For My Sweetheart, Sogno Di Primavera (a lovely waltz), Elite Syncopations, St. Louis Tickle (a winner!) and Ventresco’s original Blues, with lots of the “bent” notes that make blues guitar so appealing. 

Nit-picks are Wenrich’s Silver Bell, where Ventresco’s pianissimos are almost too soft to be heard, and Swipesy Cake Walk, the Joplin/Marshall collaboration, where Axelrod’s background creeps obtrusively into the foreground. The recorded sound is great and the graphics are appealing.  The liner notes are heavy on the philosophy behind the project, leaving specifics on the pieces to be explored via the internet or your local library.  Craig Ventresco and Meredith Axelrod make very good music together and if you like string band ragtime, you’ll like this CD.

            Available for $17.00 postpaid by going to or by calling 917-545-7384.