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Side Street Strutters to play Palmer in Brawley


January 26, 2001|By RICHARD MONTENEGRO, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Hobnobbing with the likes of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, the Side Street Strutters Jazz Band has been a fixture at Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. since 1985.

On Friday night, the six-piece jazz ensemble will bring its set of Dixieland, ragtime, swing and blues to Brawley's Palmer Performing Arts Center for a 7:30 p.m. performance, presented by the North County Coalition for the Arts of the Imperial County Arts Council.

Born in 1983 at Arizona State University in Tempe when six student musicians joined forces to explore the uniquely American art form of jazz, the Side Street Strutters have been together since, not only playing to thousands every year at Disneyland in Anaheim, but touring Europe and North America thanks in part to the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council.

From its early days, the sextet has played a blend of different styles of jazz, from the New Orleans bounce of Dixieland to the 1-4-5 shuffle of the blues.


Recently, the Strutters have tailored a set list to coincide with the resurgence of swing, big band and jump blues, featuring tributes to the orchestras of the '30s and '40s and the music of timeless greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.

The Side Street Strutters Jazz Band has garnered a number of positive reviews for its work.

"The ensemble covers a variety of the genre's best-known works but does so with top-notch musicianship and a likable stage presence," writes the Orange County Register.

Stated The Olé in Arizona: "Their non-stop excitement sent people jumping spontaneously to their feet!"

In 1984, just one year into its existence, the Side Street Strutters earned first-place honors at the International Association of Jazz Educators jazz competition.

The win solidified the combo's future in music, leading to appearances on "The Today Show," "The Merv Griffin Show" and Jerry Lewis' Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy, performances for heads of state and President Ronald Reagan.

The Side Street Strutters have gone on to release seven albums and one video, including a concert video and live album and a Christmas album. All are available through the group's Web site at

Band members include brother Robert and Vince Verdi.

Robert Verdi, the group's master of ceremonies, earned his bachelor's in music education from ASU in 1984, was a featured soloist with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and is a former junior high school music teacher. He now works with Disneyland's entertainment division.

Vince Verdi earned his bachelor's in education and a master's in business management, both from ASU. He serves as the Strutters' business manager and tour director.

Strutter Joey Sellers is also an ASU grad. He has arranged music for "Doc" Severenson, former director of "The Tonight Show" band, and Sellers has had his composition recorded by the St. Louis Brass. He has also recorded two albums for the Nine Winds Label.

Group member Greg Varlotta graduated with a music degree in trumpet performance from ASU in 1985. He has been a member of several symphony orchestras, brass quintets and jazz ensembles. He won the prestigious Arion Trumpet Award.

John Noreyko, the group's jazz tubaist and featured vocalist, has won several prestigious honors, including the American Bandmasters Association Award for Outstanding Musicianship and the Outstanding Soloist award at the Breda International Jazz Competition in Holland.

Band drummer Paul Johnson is the newest member of the Side Street Strutters and has performed with the likes of Milton Berle, Red Skelton and Sammy Davis Jr.

Admission prices to the Strutters' performance are $20 and $10, and half price for Imperial Valley students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Advance tickets are available at Clark Baker Music in El Centro or by calling 344-6116.

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