CONVERSATIONS with Ed Tracy

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STEVE BIOSSAT - JUMP JIVIN' AT THE DRAKE

You can be sure that if the very hip sounds of Steve Biossat's SWAY CHICAGO are in the house, be prepared to dance the night away.  At the top of everyone's date list, Biossat's band can be seen regularly at major corporate events, exclusive private parties and weddings and at monthly appearances at The Drake. And there is more to come when Speakeasy Swing returns to The Drake's famous Palm Court on Friday, March 17th.

There is something for everyone on the band's "SwayList" from Top 40, Motown and Classic Rock to R&B, Funk, Disco, Jazz, Swing, Big Band and ethnic music. At the core of SWAY CHICAGO's talented, versatile, high energy group is a quartet of Chicago's top vocalists. Their sound -- backed by a hip, hop, jump jivin' beat -- is fresh, unique, non-stop and always entertaining.

Steve Biossat joined the conversation on February 3rd to talk about the relaunch of Speakeasy Swing with vocalists Alyssa Allgood and Marcus Gress, growing up in the US and abroad, and how that effected his approach to music and working in Chicago's busy music scene.

On the Resurgence of Swing Music and Dancing …
“It has always been a passion of mine ... jazz and swing have been something I have loved since I was a child. I do see it resurfacing a bit more now. I do not think it is quite what the craze was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s … We were playing five or six nights a week ... featured on national and Chicago compilation CDs … There were 10-12 piece swing bands playing all over the country … There is still a great subculture of dancers hard core involved in the swing dance movement and because of that I am getting to be more active in that community once again.”

The Sway Chicago Allure ...
“We have a following of people from their 20’s to their 90’s. We have a couple of ladies who are consistently there every month … I think it really gives them this outlet to be social and sometimes they dance, sometimes they just listen. I think SWAY CHICAGO has that allure because we try to put on a show that people can listen, watch, be entertained and also dance.”

Developing the "SwayList" ...
“Developing a list that works is probably the most important thing a band or musician can do. We have our staples that stay with us year after year … but being that it is a top 40’s band through the decades, that also means we have to stay viable and current. January is our time to develop the new songs for the season … We do a lot of research, not to see what songs are new and cool, but songs that are new, cool and will last through the season, hopefully a couple of seasons.”

Technology’s Positive Impact on Live Performances ...
“I used to have to carry four huge racks to every gig … huge mixing consoles … a lot of weight to carry around and a lot of setup. Nowadays, we have everything controlled by computer and iPads … I personally go out with the same rig that Adele tours with … It fits in one small box.  It is short attention span theater these days. People do not want to hear five-minute version of songs. They want to hear three or two-minute versions, and if I want to change gears quickly I can. It is all due to the technology available probably in the last ten years.”

Gena's Surprise ...
“Gena is a godsend … literally, I prayed for her and she came into my life. I wanted to do something special and include our friends and loved ones in this monumental thing for me and her. The Drake hotel has always been a special place for both of us … There was not supposed to be entertainment that evening but they agreed to staff the room and bring everyone in for this special occasion. Standing room only. The whole band came in and learned a special song for Gena … I was concerned with overwhelming Gena with a public proposal, so, I did the proposal intimately in a side room … We both cried. We look over the picture to this day and revel in all the love that was in the room that night.”

VISIT: SWAY CHICAGO
DRAKE HOTEL
1st Friday
Speakeasy Swing
3rd Friday(beginning March 17th)

MORE AT: DE USURIS

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