by Sarah A. Peterson
If you’ve ever been to Fresno’s Rogue Festival or attended Jazz @ the Library, you might be familiar with the jazzy swing sound of Fresno band Scats on the Sly.
This four-member band of cool cats, comprised of vocalist Mallory Moad, bassist Martin Hansen, guitarist Mike Newton and violinist Sue Beevers, has been making music together for almost eight years.
“The four of us were originally in a Western swing band called They Can’t Hardly Playboys,” Moad says, “but members were having kids, working and going back to school. Those of us still standing wanted to keep playing but knew we couldn’t pull off the Western swing sound, so we went with jazz and string swing instead.”
And when it came time to christen the new group with a name, Beevers is the one who chose the winning moniker. “We formed Scats while still part of Playboys,” says Moad, “and Sue joked that we were being scats for stepping out on Western swing to do jazz on the sly–the joke being there was nothing sly about it. Everyone knew what was going on.”
Each band member brings his or her own unique musical background to the table every time they play. Beevers has had classical training with experience in Celtic and folk, Newton’s specialty is Western swing, and Hansen’s realm is hard rock ‘n roll.
Moad, however, has a background in theater and performance art, but thanks to her mother, grew up listening to all the big bands. “My grandfather brought his family out west to California from Missouri,” she says. “So as a young woman, my mom moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of being a big band singer. Unfortunately, my Southern Baptist granddad disapproved, so she gave it up. But she always had the big bands playing at our house, so I grew up listening to Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Ella Fitzgerald.”
One of Scats on the Sly’s favorite songs to perform is “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” “It’s one of those songs that even if you end up playing it like crap, it’s still a magical song,” says Moad. Other favorites of the group include Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” Irving Berlin’s “Steppin’ Out with My Baby,” and a swing arrangement of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Occasionally their musical roots do take center stage. “One time for Jazz @ the Library, we decided to forego the historical in order to tell the personal story of our band,” Moad says. “Each member chose music from their own personal repertoire to play individually.”
The band has played a wide variety of venues, from private functions like weddings and parties to public affairs such as the Rogue Festival, the Reel Pride Film Festival, JazzFresno’s Jazz @ the Library, and for Fresno Filmworks. “We were in the Tower District’s Mardi Gras parade a few years back,” Moad reveals. “Spinners Records needed a band for their float at the last minute, so we jumped on in. It was a total blast.”
Scats on the Sly will be performing Thursday, March 6, 2014, at 6 p.m. in front of downtown Fresno’s Warnors Theatre in honor of the last screening of the historic theatre’s silent film series, “Return of Silent Movies to Warnors Theatre.” For more information on this event, please visit www.warnors.org. Follow them on their Facebook page to keep up with the latest news.
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