© 2018 The Grass Roots Cultural and Performing Arts Center

les sampou and the dirty martinis

Les Sampou has a vocal toolbox that can suit any need. If you need a blues singer, she can cover you...Americana, singer/songwriter, yeah she's got a tool for that. Vintage mid-century lounge jazz? Oh yeah, she's got that covered and will bring a band to go along with it. It's a style of popular jazz that we have yet to really explore on The Extended Play Sessions and not because we haven't tried. Truth is there's a small number of people doing it these days and an even smaller number that do it really well. It's a very short leap between doing it right and doing a Saturday Night Live skit that parodies good intention. We got an email with an MP3 of Les Sampou and the Dirty Martinis covering "Peel Me a Grape" and that was pretty much all we needed. "Peel Me a Grape" was written in the 50's and covered by a slew of great women vocalists including Anita O'Day, Dianna Krall, Nancy Wilson, Patti Labelle and a fave version by Blossom Dearie in 1966. It's pure mid-century vintage lounge jazz...tiki bar, bachelor pad royale with a smoking jacket and a high-ball. Les Sampou crushed it like ice and served it up with a lipstick kiss on a bar napkin.

Les Sampou sharpened her chops on the subway platforms of Boston during the city's "folk revival" heyday. Soon after came the club circuit and a run with Rounder Records and the ensuing folk festivals and venues that inevitably come with being attached to Rounder. Rounder Records is a tight road with no break-down lanes...there's not a lot of room to color outside the lines and when you stray from folk street to blues alley the label shows you the exit. Rounder is a legendary label in the American Roots world but their strong suit has never been developing artists or careers. They find good musicians and put out records and their consistency is not lost on being imaginative.

If you're going to pull this off, the "lounge jazz" thing, with any authenticity you need a good band. The bands in those days were chock full of master musicians, band leaders and producers...Billy May, Count Basie, Ellington, Dorsey, Les Baxter...the list is endless. Les Sampou served up the Dirty Martinis for this Session...piano and organ ace Edward Grenga, upright bass covered by Justin Meyer, Steve Oksenuk on drums and guest Terry Sanger on saxophones. There's really no way of telling how big a market there is for this style of music nowadays but it is worthwhile to try and keep it alive and expose it to new audiences that can go back to origins and discover the greats like Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Julie London, Astrud Gilberto, Anita O'Day and so many others.

 

LES SAMPOU AND THE DIRTY MARTINIS

Les Sampou - vocals

Edward Grenga - piano, organ, vocals

Justin Meyer - upright bass

Steve Oksenuk - drums

Terry Sanger - saxophones


 

The Session Crew

Produced and edited by:
Bill Hurley

Cameras:
Maribeth Arena

Bill Hurley
H. Nat Stevens
Joanne Craig


Audio:
Eric Nordstrom
Connor Quigley

Mixed by:
Connor Quigley

Lighting/Special Effects:
Rick Smith

Stage Production:
Gerry Earabino

Photos:
Dan Busler