The Side Street Strutters replaced an ill Shaun Johnson on Jan. 24 at The Village Church. Courtesy photo
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Side Street Strutters fill in for ill musician in Rancho Santa Fe performance

RANCHO SANTA FE — Village Presbyterian Church put on a jazz show on Jan. 24 featuring the New Orleans-style jazz group Side Street Strutters as part of its Community Concert series. The event was initially slated to feature singer Shaun Johnson performing a tribute to the Rat Pack musicians, but he could not attend due to having acquired a 104-degree fever.

Instead, the Strutters came in his place, after Community Concerts of Rancho Santa Fe President Gail Kendall was notified by the booking agency she’d contacted that the Strutters were available to play in Johnson’s stead.

The band performed several famous jazz pieces, including Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Livery Stable Blues” — the first-ever jazz recording to be commercially released — “Blue Skies,” “What a Wonderful World,” “A Night in Tunisia,” “A Tisket, a Tasket,” “At Last,” “Caravan” and “America the Beautiful.”

The Strutters are otherwise also known for performing at Disneyland; saxophonist and the night’s band leader Robert Verdi joked that they have probably played around 17,000 different iterations of “It’s a Small World” by now.

Side Street Strutter regulars who performed other than Verdi included his brother, clarinetist Vince Verdi, drummer Paul Johnson, bassist Bruce Lett and singer Meloney Collins. Guest musicians included trombonist Ryan Dragon, trumpeter Chris Eble and pianist Jason Wanner. The band read their music on iPads attached to stands in lieu of traditional, physical sheet-music.

“Every time I get a chance to play with the Side Street Strutters, it’s a blast,” said Collins, who quickly became a crowd favorite, while also changing into different outfits between some.

“This place in particular is very warm and receptive, and they give you a glass of wine,” she said. “They’re really kind, so yeah, we had a great time, and it’s such a privilege to be able to sing this music and perform this music for a living. I’m really lucky and blessed.”

When asked about her favorite part about performing, Collins said, “Just sharing the music and telling a story through the music and watching people enjoy it and everyone being connected on a singular idea for just a minute. From all walks of life, we can all come together and agree and just enjoy the moment of good music. And that’s magical, I love it.”

Food and wine were served to guests, and CDs featuring the Strutters’ music was also on sale. After the performance, the Strutters waded into the remaining crowd to meet members of the audience.

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