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latimes990510-03.jpg (15551 bytes) Zoot Suit Revue lead singer Irby Gascon
Carlos Jon Chavez / Our Times

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throwing in sampled sounds while wearing flashy zoot suits, then they have no problem being the black sheep of the swing set.

Already plugged into the club circuit, including a recent gig at Nicholby's Upstairs in Ventura, the band will perform May 15 from 5 to 6pm on the Dr. Kato Stage at the California Strawberry Festival at the Strawberry Meadows of Oxnard College. An as yet untitled but self-released CD will be available in about a month.

Dave Hewitt and Ivan Knight formed the 20- and 30-something band about a year ago as a swing tribute, with a repertoire of music stemming from the Glenn Miller Orchestra to the Brian Setzer Orchestra, with helpings from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Frank Sinatra tossed in for good measure, as well as a pinch of originals.

But crowds shouldn't expect note-for-note coverage on the cover tunes. With non-traditional sounds generated from computers, samplers and distortion pedals, Zoot Suit Revue aims to breathe new life into the old favorites.

"It seems there aren't a lot of innovators within the swing field, no one's tweaking it," said drummer Knight. "We've tried to take the approach of a new guy who sees it fresh with eyes. I'm trying to tweak it more. With our new record, some of it's pretty crazy and frenetic. We use electronics, which is full-on taboo. When we play live, we play with samplers, which is unheard of, and people freak out. We're coming from a non-purist point. I like to stir the mud up a bit."

Hewitt, who does not play in the band, agreed. "I through gosh, there aren't enough bands out there having fun. I wanted to create a band that could do the parties and clubs and give people the opportunity to see stuff from the '30s to current. We seem to go over well with the dancers because it's a variety of music. You can't just play fast, fast, fast stuff -- you have to be able to mix it  up."

It's the dancers, said Knight, who are holding the swing scene together. The traditionalists -- the ones who try to carry the scene by the authenticity of their wingtips -- will kill it off if there are no troublemakers getting involved.

"I see my band as being a groundbreaker for doing something new. If there are not more people like us it will die," Knight said.

Band members -- including Knight, singer Irby Gascon, guitar player Frank Brown, Ed Maxwell on standup bass, Phil Norris on trumpet and Richard Tyznik on Saxophone -- aren't knocking the musicians who paved the way for current swingers; they are just trying to provide something for which the younger generation to relate.

"Some groups have been around a long time. The big bands, they're seasoned players, but the kids can't relate to them," Hewitt said. "A lot of bands have players in their late 40s and early 40s and they're great but let's face it, if there was a rock band that played just as good as say, the Foo Fighters, but the guys were in their 60s, how many kids would be buying their tunes? It's just hard to say."

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