Ashland-based Band du Pays Swing puts playful takes on American swing-jazz classics, creating sounds that could carry listeners back to the day of grand ballrooms in New York City.
This five-piece group is a regular act at Paschal Winery, 1122 Suncrest Road, Talent. This month, however, Band du Pays Swing has something new to celebrate at its 7:30 p.m. show on Saturday, Oct. 8. The band's live CD, recorded in 2015 at an Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show, is hot off the presses.
Admission to the concert and dance is $10; Jacob Jagger of Evergreen Ballroom in Central Point will offer free East Coast swing lessons at 7 p.m.; and the CD will be available for $15.
"I've got background in swing, classical and world music," says Stephen Gagné, the band's horn player. "I combine all three in the way I play. I just add a little bit of this or that where it seems to fit. I'm also a fan of Paul Desmond's sax playing. It's a smooth and melodic sound. He's well known for playing with Dave Brubeck's Quartet."
Along with Gagné on bass, soprano and tenor saxophones and clarinet, the group also features percussionist Bryan Jeffs, who teaches percussion and world music at Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University, and serves as assistant director of SOU's Percussion Ensemble.
Also look for jazz guitarist Tony Brussat. A denizen of Austin, Texas, for 10 years, Brussat fronted his own band, The Jazz Pharoahs, and he helped found swing-jazz band 8½ Souvenirs and the Asylum Street Spankers, "a roots-rock riddle, nestled in a satirical vaudeville enigma, packaged in an old-timey radio-show puzzle, and slathered with hippie-fried mystery sauce," said one reviewer. When in his hometown of Washington, D.C., Brussat plays with a band called Martini Red.
Merrill Smith — who owns and runs La Baguette Music Cafe — plays stand-up bass and and sings lead vocals.
"Merrill has a strong background in musical theater," Gagné says. "He's skillful on guitar, piano, acoustic bass and vocals. He also brings a lot of arranging skills to the group. As a bass player, he is rhythmically tuned. His focus is on providing a strong feeling of rhythm that makes the music fun to dance to."
Vocalist Kacie Garner worked in musicals at the University of Utah while she earned her bachelor of arts in theater. She later honed her skills at American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. In Mission Viejo, California, Garner worked with community theater group The Showboaters and appeared in "Guys and Dolls" and "The Sound of Music." She also appeared in "Quilters," "Crazy for You" and "Smile" through Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.
Recorded on Oct. 3 last year, Band du Pays Swing's "Live at Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Green Show" includes 12 American classics that run from the '20s through the '40s, along with traditional swing. The show's sound and recording was done by Ben Cobb of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and mixing and mastering was done by Gagné.
One song, "Caledonia," is an original tune with lyrics and music written by Ashland singer, songwriter and performer Conrad Johnson. Band du Pays plays a half-dozen or so of Johnson's songs at their live shows.
Look for songs composed or made popular by Billie Holiday, Etta James, Irving Berlin, Caro Emerald and Louis Jordon. "Bei Mir," or "Bei Mir Bistu Shein," was written in 1932 for a Yiddish musical comedy titled "I Would If I Could." "Lola" is from the 1955 musical "Damn Yankees."