The 2004 TAMMIES Band of the Year winners Misbehavin' began as a concept band three years ago. Bassist Ron Zastaury approached guitar player Chris Dansdill and suggested they form a swing band that played rock songs. Dansdill, who had never played jazz or swing before, thought it was a pretty good idea. They added vocalist Julie McCrea, drummer Sean Thornhill and Rob Resetar on keyboards.
"And then things sort of changed, as far as music; that was our original idea, but then we sort of got into more jazz standards," said Dansdill. "We still do the rock songs ... but we swing it."
Misbehavin' plays strictly covers, but a wide range of them--everything from the Beatles to Billie Holiday. But no matter the song, they make it their own.
"The nice thing about the standards is we won't play them note for note like everyone else has done. We put our own orchestrations, our own arrangements to each song," said Thornhill. "It may be a cover song, but it's our version of the song."
McCrea says that personalizing each song keeps things interesting.
"I think that's what keeps it fun and fresh for us, because none of us grew up listening to this music," said McCrea. "I grew up in a small town in Montana listening to country music."
McCrea sang in church groups for years, and Thornhill has a jazz background, but Dansdill had stuck to rock music before starting Misbehavin', which is one of the reasons the band still plays classic rock songs with a swing style.
"Swing and jazz standards are really popular right now, as you know, and have been for the last few years, so it's amazing to do 'Unforgettable' or 'Fly Me to the Moon,' and 18-year-olds know it," said McCrea.
Added Thornhill, "We're playing familiar songs and we're doing it in a style that everybody likes."
The band plays weddings, private parties, country clubs and at Rick's Café at River and Craycroft roads regularly, said McCrea, and all kinds of people come out to see them and dance to the music.
"These older people come up and say, 'Oh, I loved it when so and so did that,' or, 'You do it better than so and so,' and that's cool," said McCrea. "There are several older fans who come out and e-mail us and tell us about how they saw a big band live, and the female vocalist live, and they really enjoy it."
Said Thornhill, "That's one of biggest compliments I think that we get that's really meaningful, is when people say they've seen bands in the '30s and '40s. You can almost see them drifting away while we're playing, because they're remembering those times and that music and the songs and those memories that it evokes. It's really flattering when they say, 'We saw that band play in the '30s and '40s, and you guys are just as good, if not better.'"
All of the members, except the keyboard player, who is a full-time musician and also plays in salsa band Descarga, have day jobs: McCrea is a guidance counselor at Catalina Foothills High School; Dansdill works for IBM, and Thornhill works in sales.
The band won Best Jazz/Swing Band in last year's TAMMIES, but this year's award, they say, took them by surprise. (Although given the number of votes Misbehavin' got, and the fact that each band member won individual awards as well, it's pretty clear that the band got its fan base out to vote, big-time.) They have a demo CD that they give to potential customers, and they plan to record another CD sometime in the future.
"The acceptance that Tucson's actually given us has been really flattering," said Thornhill.