Quotes

"No musical act embodies the "Keep Austin Weird" civic mantra with more style and class than the "swingadelic" quartet Jitterbug Vipers. The band's witty updating of classic 1930s reefer jive music, featuring septuagenarian guitar genius Richey front and center, is sly, sophisticated and more than a little habit-forming. The inherent humor of the material disguises serious musicianship from not only Richey- who sparkles on the disc's denouement, the closing "Django's Birthday"-but also from bassist Francie Meaux Jeaux and drummer Masumi Jones. Sarah Sharp, who serves as the primary songwriter, sweetly sails through a selection of originals in the tradition with seductive nonchalance but also digs down deep for an exquisite rendition of 'Billie's Blues.'"

Downbeat Magazine - September 2013 Issue

The songs are genuinely timeless with Billie’s Blues being absolutely stunning as Sarah pays homage to Ms Holiday while Slim Richey performs the first of his Django Reinhardt impressions (the second is Django’s Birthday).

No Depression - September 2013

“Slim is such a fine player. A Great and he has never really had his due”

Kat Edmonson

“Sarah Sharp’s soft spoken singing style and quiet instrumentations offer a living room, fireside closeness that keeps her away from the lounge-singer stereotypes of similarly jazz-influenced performers.”

NPR – All Songs Considered

About Jitterbug Vipers

“We don’t think of ourselves as a jazz band, we think of ourselves as a 1930s rock band. We just wail,” states Jitterbug Vipers bassist Francie Meaux Jeaux. Raucous and refined, toking and swinging, the Austin-based quartet wafts in a heady bliss of 1930s and 1940s drug culture whenever and wherever it takes the stage.

The Jitterbug Vipers specialize in a beloved cult jazz offshoot called “viper jazz,” a screeching U-Turn back to the party where jazz music packed the dance floor and dazzled the audience with brilliant streams of improvisatory musicianship. This musical heritage pulls from the cherished musicality of Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and Slim Galliard.

The four piece’s distinct variety of this smoking intoxicant is known as “swingadelic” for its panoramic aesthetic sprawl. Fusing an authentic command of every era of American roots music with wry wordplay and freewheeling hippie ethos, the Jitterbug Vipers energize and vibrantly reimagine a movement in music long shackled in by nostalgia and overly reverent revivalism. In 3 years, the band has released two albums. On its first offering, the quartet swaggered through the classic viper songbook with speakeasy boisterousness. For its most recent release, Phoebe’s Dream, the Jitterbug Vipers baked some originals steeped in the ribald wit, quaint sophistication, and graceful virtuosity of those blissfully heavy-lidded 1930s and 1940s classics.

The band’s mix of chops and charms have garnered them a loyal live following and plum press. Downbeat enthuses: “No Musical act embodies the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ civic mantra with more style and class than the ‘swingadelic’ quartet Jitterbug Vipers. The band's witty updating of classic 1930s reefer jive music, featuring septuagenarian guitar genius Slim Rich front and center, is sly, sophisticated and more than a little habit-forming.” The Austin Chronicle says: "The local quartet’s one of the funnest and best bands you can catch around Austin." Eugene Weekly says: "When the group plays, somehow, somewhere, Jerry Garcia hands Count Basie a joint and says, ‘Now that’s what I’m talking about.’”

It must have been reefer madness that brought this vibrant combo together. The Jitterbug Vipers are Slim Richey, a Santa Claus-bearded jazz/swing guitar legend deemed Texas’s “Most Dangerous Guitar Player”; Francie Meaux Jeaux, a rainbow-haired bassist boisterously laying down slinky lines; Masumi Jones, one of Japan’s finest big band drummers; and sultry chanteuse vocalist Sarah Sharp.

Guitarist Slim Richey is an American treasure, a direct and authentic pathway to major intersections of American music such as Western Swing, R&B, and bluegrass. His elegance, humor, and panache as an instrumentalist puts him squarely in the pantheon of underground icons such as Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, and Lenny Breau. Richey has performed and recorded with Herb Ellis, Marc Johnson, Ricky Skaggs, Ray Price, Buddy Franco and among others.

Bassist Francie Meaux Jeaux didn’t start playing bass until she met Slim, her husband of 25 years. “The day after Slim and I got married, I did a hit of acid and he put a big ugly ass bass in my hands. I started plunking around and was hooked immediately. He taught me basic music runs, he named them ‘George,’ ‘Fred, and ‘Charles.’ He’d say play two ‘George,’ one ‘Fred,’ and then ‘Charles’ twice,” she recalls, laughing heartily. Francie is also known for playing with her back to the audience, snuggled close to her acoustic bass, enveloped in a sonic stratosphere of groove. It’s a stage visage drummer Masumi Jones has called “Ass To The People.” That motto has become a rallying cry for the group and a popular bumper sticker around Austin.

Drummer Masumi Jones met Slim at a jazz jam session. In her native country of Japan, she grew up enamored with big band drumming and later honed her craft in America attending Berklee College Of Music. “I didn’t really realize what kind of band I was in until 3 or 4 months later, when we were at a legalize marijuana demonstration,” Masumi says giggling.

Primary songwriter, singer Sarah Sharp also attended Berklee College Of Music and initially joined the band as a sub. Her honeyed flow and playfully naughty innuendo quickly won over fans and critics, and she regularly tops polls in the Austin Chronicle as best jazz vocalist. Outside of penning tunes for the Jitterbug Vipers, Sarah works under the moniker Kaliyo with co-writer Andrea Perry. Together the duo write smartly crafted indie pop and Kaliyo has had success with song placements in fashion and for film and TV, highlights have been promos for Chanel, Dell, and the shows Revenge, Switched At Birth, and The Lying Game.

For it’s most recent album, Phoebe’s Dream, the group challenged themselves to write nine modern classics evoking the rollicking spirit of the swing era’s halcyon days. The album pairs these alongside evergreens such as Billie Holliday’s “Billie’s Blues” and the Top 10 hit of yore “Undecided,” popularized in 1939 by Ella Fitzgerald.

The album was written in spirited bursts of collaborative work. The sweetly woozy “Stuff It” was written with Asleep At The Wheel’s Elizabeth McQueen and features impishly clever wordplay like: Well if you’re feeling low & you don’t know why/Having trouble just getting by /Check your pipe, is it cashed? oh my!/Stuff it and Now if that don’t work, you’re still feeling small/The boys don’t whistle & they never call/Don’t waste your time, honey check your bra/Girl, you need to stuff it.

The balmy and laconic “That Was The Sauce Talking” is a hilarious hangover confessional. “That was written with my friend Jacob Jaeger. When he came over to write with me, he had been sober for 11 months. We laughed the whole time about how autobiographical and painfully true the song was,” Sarah says. Guitarist Slim Richey steps out on the instrumental “Django’s Birthday” paring down the gypsy jazz genius’s majestic approach to its exquisite essentials.

The Jitterbug Vipers have been building an impressive live profile gigging alongside pop and rock bands. The band almost sold out the prestigious One World Theater. The quartet has also become a festival staple, appearing at Kerrville Folk Festival, Old Settlers Music Festival and Utopia Fest. “Looking out at the crowd at a festival a theater or The Continental Club, sometimes I have to remind myself this is real,” Sarah says incredulously. “It's such a trip!”

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