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Roomful of Blues Raises a 'Ruckus'

Roomful of Blues' latest CD, Raisin' a Ruckus, is chock-full of jump and swing blues. The band has been around for 40 years and has employed a rotating cast of nearly 50 musicians in that time. Trombonist Rich Lataille and guitarist Chris Vachon recently sat down to talk about playing for the people on the dance floor, writing songs and schooling the next generation.

Roomful of Blues started out as a Chicago blues band, but when the horn players came on, they started playing music influenced by Kansas City and New Orleans. The varied interests and influences of the musicians in the band has always equipped them to present many different styles of music within a single show. It's kept them and their audience interested.

One influence they all share is the dance floor. Vachon says they're always paying attention: "Absolutely, that's how you build a show. We're trying to get them going. If they don't have [energy], we're going to give it to them." He says it's a little harder these days to get people out to a show because everyone has so much to do. But, he adds, it's important for people to hear live music because there's something about it that doesn't come through on the computer or the radio.

Lataille has been playing with Roomful of Blues for 38 years, but Vachon is a relative newcomer, having been involved for only 18. The newest member, vocalist Dave Howard, was brought on for his gravelly, smoky voice, as well as his songwriting skills. Raisin' a Ruckus is his first record with the band, and he wrote the song "Sweet Petite."

Vachon also wrote a track for this record, titled "Solid Jam." He calls it a "lover's tune," even though he got the idea for the riff while walking his dogs one day. He says he often gets ideas for songs while doing mindless things, such as painting a house.

At shows, people often approach the band members for music recommendations. Lataille says he tries to steer the next generation toward musicians who originally played the music Roomful of Blues plays now: Count Basie, the Buddy Johnson Orchestra and Red Prysock, among others.

The band is touring to support its new album, but there's a hole on stage. Bob Enos, who played trumpet in the band for 28 years, died in January. The band still sets up his microphone and trumpet stand when it plays, but takes heart in knowing that he died doing what he loved to do.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.