Giant Steps

Local jazz favorites head north with new album

Formed a little over two years ago, the locally grown jazz ensemble the Dixie Giants have won a vibrant fan base in the North Bay with their busking style and ability to start a party under any condition. A popular sight everywhere from foodie fests to standup showcases, the young group kicks off a summer tour at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol with music from a new album.

Formed by banjo plucker Dan Charles, clarinetist Casey Jones and sousaphonist Nick Pulley, the Dixie Giants are a strong septet of music students, educators and the requisite winemaker, who emphatically embrace the boisterous and raucous aspects of New Orleans jazz.

Pulley first fell in love with the sound when, as a student music teacher, his class came back from a trip to the Big Easy and begged for some funky Dixieland. “When I sunk my teeth into it, I thought it was the greatest thing ever,” says Pulley. “It was fantastic.”

“It’s hard to sit and play this music,” Pulley continues. “The tunes are geared for a parade atmosphere.” To that effect, the Dixie Giants have made a name for themselves with hyperactive live shows that involve improvisation and dancing with the crowd.

Now the group takes its music into uncharted territory when they pile into a van and head to the Pacific Northwest. “We’ve played as far south as San Diego,” says Pulley, “but I don’t think we’ve ever gone north of, gosh—Cloverdale?”

This summer the Dixie Giants embark on a six-state tour that will see them hitting hot spots like Portland and Seattle as well as towns like Missoula and Spokane, where they’ll be playing the streets as much as the clubs. And just in time for the tour, the group has their sophomore album, A-Salted, available for download.

“It’s a pretty bad pun,” laughs Pulley. The story goes that the band was playing alongside a burlesque dancer at Lagunitas last year when a disgruntled audience member threw a salt shaker in protest. “What’s crazy is that she got arrested for assault. You can’t make this up.”

A-Salted features 10 terrific tracks with six original compositions alongside the band’s kinetic take on classic standards. Vinyl pressings will be on the way soon; for now, the group will have downloads available when they get the send-off treatment this week. Folk-rock friends Trebuchet open the show.

The Dixie Giants perform on Friday, June 12, at HopMonk Tavern,
230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9pm. $10–$12. 707.829.7300.