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The Polyjesters: Hilariously Off-the-Cuff

You may not know of The Polyjesters. Two years ago, I didn't either. But once you listen, it's hard not to notice their wry sense of humor and their high level of musicianship, all wrapped up in a swing sandwich. They are part Django Reinhardt, a bit of Dan Hicks and a spoonful of The Asylum Street Spankers.

The Polyjesters are led by two brothers with an interesting story. Jason and Sheldon Valleau, on baritone ukulele and acoustic bass, come from musical parents. That's not so odd, but it’s where they come from that’s unusual -- "Peace Country" in Northern Alberta. Their parents teach music and organize a small community orchestra. The boys learned to play every instrument. Then they went to Europe for five years, playing on the streets of Amsterdam and Nice, France. Today they are a quartet with violin and guitar.

I was excited when they arrived for two reasons. First, I admire them as a producer and a fan. Secondly, by strange coincidence I have relatives in Peace Country. I didn’t figure too many of their interviewers had actually been to Grand Prairie.

They immediately got down to business. They wanted to rehearse, and they were eager for our sound engineers to be satisfied, too. I was reminded of a few things on this day. For a performer to appear spontaneous, he or she has to be prepared and well-practiced. The reason we like the Marx Brothers or comedian-singer Leon Redbone is because these performers seem off-the-cuff. In reality, their experience and preparation allows them to be off-the-cuff. The Polyjesters know what it takes to make you smile and leave you impressed.

Copyright 2008 WKSU

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Jim Blum
Jim Blum has been sharing his love of folk music as a radio host on WKSU-FM for more than 25 years and, since 2003, also on FolkAlley.com. Blum graduated with a B.A. from Kent State University, played bass in a bluegrass and swing band and used to be a landscaper. As host and music programmer for Folk Alley and WKSU's weekend folk music, Blum has nearly three decades of experience broadcasting to a folk community that is now, thanks to the Internet, global in scope. His broadcasts include his own mix of musical influences featuring classic folk heroes, acoustic instrumentals, world rhythms, contemporary singer/songwriters, Americana, bluegrass and other roots-based sounds. He also acts as a valuable resource for area venue owners and concert coordinators as well as holding the position of artistic director for the Kent State Folk Festival, the nation's second oldest folk fest held on a college campus.