Smith and Skillet Lickers to bring Park City swing
Saturday evening, the Park City Performing Arts Foundation will offer Park City a chance to swing. That night, the organization will present Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at the Eccles Center at 7:30 p.m.
The whole weekend, really, will be one for music in Park City. In addition to the town’s normal nighttime-musical offerings, Big Head Todd and the Monsters will bring their rock ‘n’ roll to Suede and on Saturday evening and on Monday evening, noted bluegrass-man Larry Keel will come to The Spur with his band, Natural Bridge.
But Smith and Her Skillet Lickers will likely provide the biggest show. The group’s sound draws from a heritage pioneered by singers like Dinah Washington, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.
"For me, it kind of epitomizes the Kansas City jazz-blues sounds," said Smith.
The lineup playing at the Eccles Center will include band leader and pianist Chris Siebert, Danny Armstrong on trombone, alto sax-man Jules Broussard, tenor saxophonist Charles McNeal, David Elwell playing bass and Howard Wiley on the drums and saxophone.
The San Francisco-based group plays a mixture of classics and original material, but all carry the same style of upbeat, horn-driven jazz swing.
"They don’t sound dated," said Smith, "but they sound classic."
Smith said she was first attracted to the big-band jazz when she was younger, despite the proliferation of popular music around her.
"I heard a real rebel kind of sound in Bessie Smith and Dinah Washington," she said. "I thought Bessie was more alternative than Nirvana."
Despite the singers’ origins in the 1940s and ’50s, Smith noted that their songs retain an edge, so while some people might consider them traditional classics they still sound new today.
"The traditions that we draw on are very modern sounds," said Smith.
Fittingly, both the band’s musicians and its fans span a wide range of age groups. Smith said the youngest band-member at the Eccles Center show will be 24 and the oldest, Broussard, can draw social security. So the group’s players include one who is relatively new and at least one who played with some of the progenitors of the Kansas City jazz sound.
"It is real cross-generational," said Smith. "We do definitely have more of that appeal."
The band has retained that feel since she and Siebert started it in 1989, she noted.
The group usually plays about 200 dates a year, with many in San Francisco and some on the road. And while Smith did say the schedule is heavy, she also said it offers an opportunity for a degree of refinement.
"You get into your craft more," she said.
So she and the Skillet Lickers know how to deliver a live show. Smith said that the set list varies to keep the band and the fans interested but the style stays the same.
"It’s a lifelong thing," she said. "We change it up, but we do what we do."
The band, she noted came together though its members’ common interest in the music.
"Basically, the San Francisco Bay-area has a wealth of great musicians," she said. "You get to know everybody, and you pick up the guys who you think will work well."
That method has helped the group last. It is currently working on recording its follow-up to 2000’s release, "Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout Miss Thing."
"We’re just recording right now," said Smith.
She said the album will be much like the group’s other efforts.
"The only thing that’s really different is that all the songs are arranged by our own bandleader, [Siebert]," she said.
Otherwise, the songs will remain much the same.
"This is what we do," Smith said, "We’re not going to be doing anything different for the rest of our lives."
The band will play its Park City show after a small string of club dates in the Bay area. Smith said the band was looking forward to the Utah date and that the audience members should come ready to move.
"They’re definitely not going to hear dinner jazz," said Smith. "It’s going to be real up-tempo jazz and bebop."
Just the kinds of sounds that give people an opportunity to dance, she noted. "That’s pretty much what we started out doing."
Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers will play the Eccles Center on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $15-$50 with discounts available for students and seniors. Tickets and more information are available by calling 655-3114 or visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org.
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