Torch Songs

As a quartet, Band du Pays called on its bass player, Merrill Smith, and guitarist Tony Brussat to fill in the vocals whenever the group played live shows.

"We've been accompanied by female vocalists in the past, but performed without one for nearly eight months," Smith says. "Audiences were clamoring for a voice to match the popular American standards that we play."

The group, also featuring Stephen Gagné on saxophone and clarinet and drummer Andy Combs, has showcased songs from the '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s — such as Harold Arlen's "Paper Moon" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Louis Jordan's "Is You or Ain't You My Baby?" George Shearing's "Lullaby to Birdland" and Mack Gordon's and Harry Warden's "At Last" — for four years at Liquid Assets, 96 N. Main St.

Now, with Kacie Garner providing lead vocals, Band du Pays' music takes on new character.

"These songs, like 'At Last' and 'Gee, Baby,' are good torch songs for Kacie," Smith says. "She nails them so well, and the ballads showcase her voice, pitch and vibratto.

"There's enough unpredictability about these standards that they keep the listener interested without losing the melody. And they stand the test of time. Some of them have been around for almost 100 years."

Band du Pays' regular gigs at Liquid Assets usually are set for 8 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. December show dates will be the 19th and 31st.

Garner studied musical theater at the University of Utah, at community theaters in Southern California and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.

Smith met Garner, 30, when she began singing for The Jazz Men, a local, big band-style ensemble, and asked her to join Band du Pays.

"I love singing torch songs," Garner says. "This is definitely my favorite genre. My dad played piano and got me interested in the swing standards of the '40s and '50s. I get into the character of each song and just belt it out."

Band du Pays formed when Smith, Brussat, Gagné and Combs started jamming together at La Baguette, Smith's bakery for 24 years. With its regular gigs at Liquid Assets, the group has learned how to play the room.

"We know how loud to play," Smith says. "We have our tones and volumes all set up for that room."

American standards were a natural choice for the band.

"As you pick up skills with any particular instrument, you are drawn to more sophisticated, harmonic development and rhythmic patterns," Smith says. "These songs have those elements."

Smith also keeps various instruments at his bakery, where visitors are welcome to sit down and play his piano or pluck at a guitar.

Band du Pays has an eight-song demo recording to its credit. Samples of the songs are available at

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