Christmas songs are not always the most joyous of musical experiences. Every year there is a list of songs that are nice; those that are fun, or at least bearable to play or listen to. There’s also a list of naughty songs; they represent the worst qualities of Christmas and amount to monotonous sugar-coated programming chants. Somewhere down there on that list lies Santa Clause is Coming To Town.
The hero of our story below is Paul Scavarda. Wielding his plectrum banjo, he saves this holiday tune by succesfully transforming it into a freewheeling trad-jazz romp that keeps you on the edge of your seat, bouncing for more. Joining him on his quest is Pat Gullotta on trombone and David Mackenzie on bass saxophone.
Paul is originally from L.A. where he played, among other places, at Shakey’s Pizza Parlors. These notorious pizza parlors across the country were a place where the 4 string banjo and the music of the 1920’s experienced somewhat of a revival. Paul demonstrates all the drama and humor of a Shakey’s entertainer, but he also shows a dynamism in his musicality that stands out in that particular crowd.
A multi-instrumentalist who could wow you equally on guitar or ukulele, Paul moved to Florida to work for Disney in Orlando and has played all over the world with many great productions. He and his wife form the duo Bakey and Betty (http://bakeyandbetty.com), and they both are in the group Wally’s Warehouse Waifs (http://wallysjazz.com).
In our modern world of primarily non-jazz pizza parlors and 5-string delivery, we need heroes like Paul Scavarda to keep the sound of the plectrum banjo alive. Here’s wishing him the merriest of adventures on his quest!!
Note: Paul tunes his plectrum banjo like the first four strings of a guitar (D-G-B-E). Sometimes players can not get a boogie banjo sound when they treat the instrument like a guitar. Paul is familiar with 4 string banjo music and has sufficient boogie and banjo in his style to make it work.