Imagine lightning striking five times in a space roughly 36 feet wide.
That’s about the closest metaphor for Rhythmodique sizzling up the stage at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley this coming Saturday. The newly formed electro-swing band features five of Whidbey Island’s most acclaimed musicians in an incarnation of energy that re-ignites with every note, strum, strike, swing and sway.
In their upcoming debut performance on Saturday, the electrifying Rythmodique showcases the talents of co-founders Scott Small on drums and Troy Chapman on guitar joining forces with veteran bassist Gerry Reed, keyboardist Kai Lund Olsen and vocalist Jeannette d’Armand. Collectively, they incarnate about 140 years of professional musicianship, much of it rooted in their lives on Whidbey Island.
Small described the early rumblings of the collaboration that’s now a full-blown band moving forward in a powerful way. Back in 2014, they coined the name when acting as the pit band at Outcast Theatre’s production of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”
It reemerged years later when Chapman, Small and Reed performed as the pit band at WICA’s “Next to Normal” show, during which Chapman asked the fateful question: “Given the choice, what kind of band would you have?”
The rest is history, as the saying goes. After two weeks of deep pondering and a chance listening of electro-swing while dining on ramen at Ulta Noodle House in Langley, Small had his answer. Chapman jokingly says now, “I gotta stop asking questions.”
But curiosity and experimentation are crucial parts of Rhythmodique, and the exceedingly skilled musicians bring something new to the evolving sound every time they practice.
“We’re definitely putting our own spin on electro swing,” Small said, “We’re still developing … We’re trying not to just throw it out to people and say, here it is, you better like it.”
A major influence in their take on electro-swing comes from the Django-style guitar and gypsy swing that Chapman is famous for performing. At present, he’s the primary songwriter but stresses that they all bring ingredients to the mix, including a strong jazz presence.
“There isn’t really a template for what we do,” stated Olsen, the youngest member of the group and an electronic music producer who explained the origins of electro-swing music.
“It started as a one-person genre where that person would listen to an old record, sample and record it, and then put new drums and other sounds on top of it,” he said. “So we’re basically playing the recordings.”
Small added that there’s a lot of layers, and they’re basically making it up as they go. He describes himself as “old school,” playing traditional jazz for a very long time.
As vocalist, d’Armand reveals that she’s the daughter of classical opera singers and that she herself has a background in musical theater. But she’s veered toward the “vocal branch of the creative tree,” teaching at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle in a musical-theater style mixed with her own jazz and folk proclivities.
The rest of the band chimed in quickly that she’s being very modest. In fact, they are all deeply educated musically in addition to the obvious natural talent. Collectively, they’ve trained at prestigious institutions such as Berklee College of Music, Stanford, Cornish, the University of Washington and the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. And they all teach their skills to aspiring musicians on Whidbey Island.
Despite the heady background and obvious expertise, the five virtuosi that make up Rythmodique are very clear about one thing: This band is about having fun. It’s dance music, and that’s exactly what they want everyone to do: dance, even (and especially) at their debut performance at WICA next weekend.
Here are some so-called ground rules for the evening:
“If you have a cell phone, make sure it’s ON for the evening and ready to record. Please do not stay in your seat during the performance. Do not be quiet, and do not refrain from taking photographs and videos and publishing them on social media.”
And WICA is okay with that. Artistic Director Deana Duncan noted that the show is part of the organization’s ongoing Local Artist Series presentation that they’ve strongly supported for 20 years.
“Scott most recently played percussion in our hit musical Next to Normal and we are thrilled to welcome him and his band to our stage,” she said.
The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, with a cocktail hour and piano bar opening at 7 p.m. Along with traditional cocktails, WICA will be serving the band’s own concoction, known as the Rhythmodique (or as Chapman calls it, the Rhythmo-WHAT?!)