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Sounds of the bayou hit Claremont Colleges

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Jessica Warden
Staff Writer

Lisa Haley and the Zydekats put on an energetic performance at Scripps College in Claremont on April 15.

The evening concert is part of the Levitt on the Lawn at Scripps Concert Series presented by Pasadena’s Levitt Pavilion for the performing Arts.

The series, free and open to the public, is sponsored and produced by Elizabeth Levitt Hirsch, an alumna of Scripps College.

About 175 people attended, many of them students from the Claremont Colleges.

Several concertgoers picnicked and or purchased dinner at the Malott Commons Dining Hall located on campus and Levitt Pavilion conveniently provided free blankets and lawn chairs.

Together since 1995, Lisa Haley and the Zydekats have achieved great success performing at thousands of venues across the country and in Europe and Japan. Their music is a collective blend of blues and Louisiana roots with a lot of soul.

The five band members include Haley on lead vocals and fiddle, Gary Ferguson on drums and percussion, Chuck Alvarez on guitar and vocals, Skip Edwards on keyboards and accordion and Andy Anders on bass and vocals.

Each of the Zydekats have extensive resumes, working with some of the biggest names in the music industry.

Ferguson has preformed with such artists as Ray Charles, Cher, k.d lang and Stevie Nicks. Several of his musical works have been featured in television shows, films and commercials.

Prior to joining the Zydekats, Alvarez was a member of the Twisters and musical director for Grammy award winning group the Emotions. He has toured with Tim Weisberg and also preformed and recorded with David Benoit.

Edwards has performed with numerous country music and rock greats such as Lucinda Williams, the Desert Rose band, Buck Owens and Johnny Rivers.

Anders was bassist for Cajun accordion legend Joe Simien for many years and is a protégé of famed jazz bassist Alphonso Johnson.

On stage Haley is a firecracker. With her bright red hair and bluesy voice, she really draws you in. The “Los Angeles Times” has compared her voice to that of classic rock legend Janis Joplin.

Not only is she a talented vocalist, but Haley, a fourth generation fiddler, also plays the violin, viola, mandolin, Cajun accordion, guitar, and washboard. She has worked with Beatles producer George Martin and Brian Setzer.

“About 50 percent of the tunes we do are 100-year-old tunes that we’ve translate and made more modern so that the kids will get the music and that it won’t die out,” Haley said.

Haley explains that it was her adopted father, Cajun accordion legend Joe Simien who introduced her to much of the music that her and Zydekats currently perform.

Many of these songs have been in her family for four or five generations and were originally performed in French.

Since the 120-year-old family tunes had never been written down or recorded, Haley felt that someone needed to convert the songs from French to English. She says that about 15 years ago this genre of music almost died out, but is pleased to see that it is regaining popularity and has had a true renaissance.

Haley is very open about her faith in Jesus and explains that she is able gain inspiration and write songs through His guidance.

Despite the large turnout, students of the Claremont Colleges seemed more interested in the catered food than the artistic musical styling of Lisa Haley and the Zydekats.

Claire Knezedic’s attention, a first year chemistry major, was definitely not on the music.

“I came for the food and social mingling,” Knezedic said.

“I think I’m thoroughly amused,” said Alexandra Jamali, a first-year undergraduate student from Pitzer College. “To be honest I thought they were a Janis Joplin cover band so I was like awesome, I’ll totally go. Then I came and it was just such a sea that I had (to) take a chair, join in and eat some yummy barbeque.”

Just recently Haley and the Zydekats performed on an episode of the NBC series “Las Vegas” and this month are in the process of recording their fourth album, which will be the first to have been recorded live.

If you’d like to learn more about Lisa Haley and Zydekats or are interested in their up coming performances and tour dates, visit their Web site at www.bluefiddle.com.

Jessica Warden can be reached at jesselw@verizon.net.

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