Alice Spencer and her Monkey Butlers


May I have your attention:

Uke master Pops Bayless and my self have this running conversation for years now. For some reason that we have yet to properly divine, it seems that our 'side project" endeavors always seem to end up being both the most fun and the most creatively successful. We work hard to get an audience with our own bands, but the one that we get hired to play in just for fun always makes the great record and then people seem to like a lot. No complaints or anything, but it is odd to see happen over and over again.

This is never more true that with vocalist Alice Spencer and her new CD "Joe's Basement." I worked with Alice and her hubby clarinetist Ben Saffer in their popular dance band Victrola several years ago, and Ben has been in everyone of my bands since I first met him in 1998, most notably as lead voice in Rubinchik's Yiddish Ensemble. They assembled the most motley and unlikely group of musicians (Joe Cordi on piano, Pops on banjo and myself on tuba) to back up her amazing vocal talents and despite everyone's baggage and tsouris, it works. And how.

This band is dangerously good.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the new CD. Recorded utterly live without overdubs in Joe's basement last fall, it is but a faint shadow of the juggernaut that the band is live. Still I recommend you pick it up to hear Alice's intuitive genius with not only lyric but attitude in the fine selection of honky-tonky blues, whorehouse ballads and scuffles .

See if I'm lying.

** (7/17/2014) **

Well, it wasn't meant to last it seems. First came the deceits and then the clumsy cover ups, as Alice and her then husband sought to start a family without informing the band; effectively altering every assurance of commitment to the project they had made up to that point prior. By the time the pregnancy showed, Pops and I pointedly shared our disappointment with situation and were in turn summarily sacked. Rather than even doing it face to face, I got a phone call as was told to "Tell Pops he's fired too." Classy.  Alice and Ben tried in vain to keep a band together relying on local a melange of "vintage jazz" hobbyists but folded for good soon after. There's a big stack of unsold CD's in a garage somewhere I'm sure. An awful shame as from what I remember, it was a damn fine release. I don't even possess a copy myself.

This must be a long-arching pattern for the very talented Ms. Spencer as she eventually left her husband, and their now two young children, to split for her native St. Louis where she would take up with an old band mate and engage in a series of ill conceived projects.