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Still doin’ it right



Tom Lavin’s encyclopedic knowledge of the blues keeps the music true

Who: Powder Blues Band

Where: Buffalo Bill’s

When: May 26

Flip, flop, and fly… the Powder Blues Band hits town.

And with their bluesy-swing vocals on stage this weekend, and Colin James next month, Whistler continues to attract the legends for summer shows.

This time around, the Powder Blues Band revive songs from 1945-1955 on their latest album, Swingin’ the Blues .

"Swing is really a slightly more sophisticated form of the shuffle, that was made popular in top spots like the Savoy in NYC, where bands like Buddy Johnson and others danced the jitterbug with full vigour," says Tom Lavin. The Chicago-raised, Vancouver-based founder of the Powder Blues Band is a walking blues historian, who also handles vocals and guitar for Powder Blues.

Rounding out the lineup is Willie MacCalder on piano, Mike Kalanj on Hammond organ, Billy Hicks on drums, Bill Runge on bass, baritone and alto sax, Paul Baron and Vinne Mai on trumpets, Rod Murray on trombone, and Pat Caird on tenor sax.

Swingin’ the Blues was recorded at Blue Wave Studios in Vancouver in analog format, giving the album "a softer, warmer sound." Lavin credits good friend and pianist Linton Garner, who "never fails to bring the songs and musicians to life."

Lavin has always included swing, blues, and jazz in his musical treasure chest. The band’s next album will be an extension of this one.

"There will be a more modern sound and more horns from the 1955-65 era," says Lavin, who chats excitedly and calmly all in one about the making of the next album, due for release in September.

Lavin has paid his dues, having played with some of the all-time greats of the blues world.

Growing up in a Chicago neighbourhood, he got to hear the real thing every weekend.

At age 14, when he saw people like Buddy Guy and Junior Wells play he thought "man, that’s the coolest thing ever."

When a funky aunt took Lavin to hear Lefty Dizz, Hound Dog Taylor, as well as counter-culture folk artists at the University of Chicago in the late ’60s, he was exposed to some of the songwriting greats.

"A lot of the guys in Chicago started in the deep south, but then moved north, so when I was a little boy there were guys playing who weren’t well known at the time, like Hound Dog Taylor and Johnny Shine," says Lavin.