23 March 2017


A band that has caught my eye on YouTube recently is called Sweet Sheiks. It seems that it normally comprises just five musicians - two young ladies and three gents. From the internet, I discovered this band was formed as recently as March 2016 and is based in Milwaukee. For those of you whose geography is as hazy as mine, let me tell you Milwaukee is in the State of Wisconsin and on the west shore of Lake Michigan, almost 100 miles north of Chicago. To put it another way, it's just over 1000 miles north of New Orleans.

Sweet Sheiks do not exactly describe themselves as a traditional jazz band: they say they play 'antique pop'. But their music certainly comes within what I consider to be the traditional jazz category. They claim to be 'a toe-tapping five-some inspired by the popular music of the tens, twenties, and thirties'. They describe their music as 'refreshingly vintage' - and nobody could argue with that.

The members are:
Jen Müttin-Schrank: vocals, guitar, saw (played with violin bow), washboard
Ousia Lydian: violin and vocals (and whistling)
Garrett Burton: banjo
Andrew Spadafora: clarinet
Aaron Johnson: tuba

You will notice they do not normally have drums or a trombone or trumpet. But that's just fine with me. I am not at all sure that the addition of any of these instruments would improve their performance. It would take an exceptional musician to fit in with their house style and to contribute anything more that might be welcome.

As with so many of the young bands in America, it is such a joy to be able to hear all of the instruments clearly and to note what a great creative contribution each player is making to the overall sound.

Andrew Spadafora's clarinet improvisations are as good as the best you will hear in New Orleans, and the solid tuba-based rhythm, with guitar and banjo, is reminiscent of what Todd Burdick and his team produce in the engine room of Tuba Skinny. But I must say all five of these young musicians play extremely well, both as individuals and as team members. I am looking forward very much to watching how Sweet Sheiks develops.

Catch a pleasant performance of The Curse of an Aching Heart BY CLICKING HERE.

And for something unusual - Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen played extraordinarily well on the musical saw, CLICK HERE.

For a very spirited version of Who Walked in When I Walked Out, CLICK HERE.

By the way, as so often, I must express deepest gratitude to the video-maker codenamed jazzbo43 for bringing so many of their performances to our computer screens.

If those have whetted your appetite, you will be able to find several more performances by the band on YouTube.

As for me, if I ever make it to the USA again, I shall be looking for ways of fitting in a stop-over in Milwaukee on my way to New Orleans!