Jazz band swings into Uptown

Juan Zuniga-Mejia

FEATURES EDITOR 

This Saturday, Feb. 23, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., the Gypsy Jazz band Sweet Dreams, Priscilla will be coming to Uptown Whittier to perform original works at Crêpes and Grapes Café. Meet the four musicians who form this light-hearted, warm, and fun band. 

The band consists of Adam Barnes as bassist and backing vocals; Sarah Alonzo as lead vocals, autoharp, and melodica; Scott Zschomler as guitarist, sound engineer, and is in background vocals; and Jeff Maginnis as saxophonist, background vocals. and occasional ukelele player. 

Sweet Dreams, Priscilla first started with Alonzo, Barnes, and Zschomler in Jan. 2018. Zschomler, having known Barnes from some prior music sessions, approached Alonzo about starting a swing band. “Since [Barnes and Alonzo] are married, they come as a package deal,” said Zschomler. 

It was not until February when Maginnis joined their rehearsal; Zschomler and Maginis knew each other through an instructional saxophones program for students with special disabilities. Sweet Dreams, Priscilla made their first debut as a quartet band in June, 2018.

From left to right: Scott Zschomler, Jeff Maginnis, Sarah Alonzo, and Adam Barnes.

From left to right: Scott Zschomler, Jeff Maginnis, Sarah Alonzo, and Adam Barnes.

The quartet jazz band started off playing covers of Django Reinhardt and gypsy jazz. “At the beginning it was a learning experience for everyone,” said Alonzo. “I’d never been in a band before, so it was all just kind of figuring it out, and then from there we kind of got that itch to jam a little bit, write our own stuff. At this point, I feel like we’re much more interested in our original tunes than playing covers.”

Picking a band name became a serious moment for the quartet; it was the moment they were an official band together. One of their working names was “Adam and the School People,” since Barnes is the only one who does not work in a school setting. 

“I thought that was a great name,” said Barnes. “[In] any band whose name is ‘so and the so-and-so’s,’ the first so-and-so is the front person. So, Adam and the School People [would be like] : ‘Oh, who’s Adam? Oh, he’s the bass player.’”

What led them to choose the name Sweet Dreams, Priscilla was to pay respects to Alonzo and Barnes’ late cat, Priscilla, who passed away from kidney failure. “We were pretty bummed,” said Alonzo. “At that time we were looking for a band name and throwing back ideas.”

It was Maginnis who suggested the name Sweet Dreams, Priscilla. “Apparently [Barnes] and I talk about our cat a lot,” said Alonzo. 

Last December, Sweet Dreams, Priscilla took a retreat to Lake Arrowhead to play and write music for three days. “We wrote a lot of new songs,” said Maginnis. “It was a good trip, very productive.” 

When it comes to writing methods, the band collaborates together during practice. “It varies . . . we don’t have a [writing] method yet,” said Zschomler. “We tried out a bunch of different ways to write . . . Like, setting a timer and seeing what we could come up with, or: ‘Oh, we want to write a song with a kind of climbing progression.’” By setting these challenges and limitations to their writing exercises, the band is amazed by what they come up with.

Barnes said, “That’s the great thing about playing music for eight or 10 hours a day is [that], yeah, it’s technically kind of exhausting, but it’s fun. You don’t get bored of it, necessarily.”

Sweet Dreams, Priscilla will usually play at restaurants and bars, as well as at Sunset Beach; they play a great majority of the time around Long Beach. They also play at private events, such as weddings and parties. Their music is highly colorful and fun, which makes where they play the perfect place to sit with a drink and enjoy a meal. 

One of the goals the band is pursuing is an event Alonzo and Barnes have called “Business Casual.” The first Business Casual event took place on Feb. 16 at Razorbacks Barber Shop. Every other month, they plan to throw a release party of live recording, EPs/CDs in the Long Beach area (having originated from Long Beach).

These parties are to be hosted in local businesses that do not necessarily have to be music venues, and the band will invite other local bands, artists, DJs, and vendors for vintage clothing, and portraits. “The idea is that every other month we throw this big collaborative event and get a bunch of people to connect and grow their network of artistic connections,” said Barnes.

While doing live tracks for Business Casual, the band also plans to record songs with a more polished feeling for their full album. They hope to release their full album by the end of the year. 

In regards to their all­­-ages performance at Crêpes and Grapes Caféthis Saturday, Maginnis said, “It’s a good atmosphere match for the music that we play.”

“When you come to a Sweet Dreams, Priscilla concert, you should expect quite a lot of laughter,” said Alonzo. Being a positive and lively band, the audience can also expect banter and a great time. They have also seen babies and children dancing during their shows. 

“Maybe you forgot Valentine’s Day just happened, and your partner is real mad at you; this is a great time to make it up,” said Alonzo.

On Saturday, they plan to play a combination of originals and covers. For a sneak peak of their work and more information about them, you can visit their website at www.sweetdreamspriscilla.com or YouTube channel, “Sweet Dreams Priscilla.”

Poets who are interested in taking a study break, perhaps want a romantic evening, or just need a calm evening with yourself, should come and see Sweet Dreams, Priscilla over at Uptown’s Crêpes and Grapes Café from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 23.