Artist of the day: The Chicken Chasers
The Chicken Chasers play klezmer mixed with pop, swing and other old-fashioned genres, a mixture that vocalist Meyer "Little Squeeze" Baron calls "schving." With nearly a big band's worth of instruments, the five-piece outfit has more pure musical talent than several other bands combined.
‚ÄúI feel like every song has a dance in it,‚Äù Baron says. ‚ÄúA lot of songs are bouncy, in a minor key.‚Äù
The band plays free shows on the first, third and fifth (when applicable) Monday of eachmonth at Dave‚Äôs Aqua Lounge, 10820 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg.
Birds of a feather: Meyer ‚ÄúLittle Squeeze‚Äù Baron, concertina and lead vocals; Dave ‚ÄúSt. Peach.‚Äù Cotten, soprano sax, clarinet, guitar and vocals; Anne ‚ÄúBette M.‚Äù Van Atta, upright bass and vocals; Marlin Grando, keyboards, clarinet, trumpet and bass clarinet; Andrew ‚ÄúBlinky‚Äù Mort, drums.
Flocking together: ‚ÄúI started asking people on MySpace if they knew anyone who‚Äôd want to play,‚Äù Baron said. ‚ÄúBlinky and I are the only two original members. I met him while he was at work at Rolling Oats. ‚Ä¶ I‚Äôd seen St. Peach play before ‚Äî I‚Äôd seen him play a few times, the first time with Freight Train Annie.‚Äù
First gig: March 2008 in St. Petersburg. ‚ÄúWe had some turnover,‚Äù Baron says. ‚ÄúThe current lineup has been together since January.‚Äù
Their sound: Klezmer mixed with pop, swing and other old-fashioned genres, a mixture that Baron calls ‚Äúschving.‚Äù ‚ÄúI feel like every song has a dance in it,‚Äù Baron says. ‚ÄúA lot of songs are bouncy, in a minor key.‚Äù
Their name: Inspired by ladies man Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers, whose name was originally spelled with a ‚Äúk‚Äù for his chick-chasing ways. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not named after Chico for the way he chased women,‚Äù Baron clarifies, ‚Äúbut for the way he played piano. There‚Äôs this exuberance that I feel like if we captured that, that‚Äôs a great thing to share.‚Äù
The youngest member: Mort, 22. ‚ÄúFor such a young guy, he knows a wide range of styles,‚Äù Van Atta says.
Baron: ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got to be able to play different styles. We do a cha-cha, a tango, all sorts of stuff a young kid wouldn‚Äôt typically know how to do.‚Äù
Better late than never: Baron didn‚Äôt start playing music until he was in his 50s. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm 55, and right before I turned 52, I decided to become a singer,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúSo, I started learning how to sing and I took voice lessons, and I think I was so happy I was seeing this girl that I just wanted to sing. Then we split up, and the only way I could deal with it was to start writing songs. ‚Ä¶ I started doing my songs at open mics and musicians started coming up and saying they‚Äôd play with me, and then good musicians (laughs) started coming up and saying they‚Äôd play with me!‚Äù
'Beggars Can‚Äôt Be Schmoozers‚Äô: It‚Äôs the title of the forthcoming album, their single and theme of their live show, written by Baron and Cotten. ‚ÄúThe schmoozers are at the top, making the rules, then there are the normals, who follow the rules," Baron said. "It seems like if you‚Äôre not one of those two groups in our society, you don‚Äôt belong. We call ‚Äôem the beggars.‚Äù
Hear them: The first, third and fifth (when applicable) Monday of the month at Dave‚Äôs Aqua Lounge, 10820 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 576-1091.
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*