It doesn’t happen often. So when the four musicians otherwise known as vocalist Janet Planet, keyboard player Connie Grauer, drummer Kim Zick and saxophonist Juli Wood come together to perform as Valley of the Dolls, it is a special occasion.
Friday, Oct. 25, will be such a night at the Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth St., when the funky, all-female jazz quartet, Valley of the Dolls, plays a concert for the first time in two years.
These four musicians — all with their own successful performing and recording careers — had known each other for a long time before they decided to join forces as Valley of the Dolls for a special show in Milwaukee about 10 years ago, according to Juli Wood. They had so much fun doing so that they went on to play other gigs as Valley of the Dolls, when their schedules would allow — most recently at Milwaukee’s Jazz in the Park series in June 2011.
Through the years, the “Dolls” have performed occasionally at festivals and other venues, including at least two in Racine: George’s Tavern and the Racine Theatre Guild’s Jean’s Jazz Series. And, they would like to do more shows together, Wood said, but everyone’s varied schedules makes it difficult to do so.
More often than not, when someone suggests a Valley of the Dolls gig, it turns out that one of its members is already booked for that date, she said. “Three of us will go ‘Yeah! Let’s do it’ and the fourth one will say ‘Oh darn, I’ve already got a gig that same day.’ ”
The rarity of opportunities to see Valley of the Dolls perform is one of the reasons Jerry Horton, the local music fan presenting the concert, is excited to be able to bring the group to the Sixth Street Theatre. Horton, who is also part of the theater’s Over Our Head Players theater troupe, has long been a fan of the “Dolls,” as well as each of the group’s musicians individually. And when he managed to find a date that would not only fit all of their schedules, but that of the theater, he decided to jump on the chance to share the band’s talents with other music fans here.
Horton, who has presented a couple other local jazz concerts in recent years, said he’d also had a few requests from people who had attended his other shows, asking him to bring the Dolls back to Racine. And after Wood performed at the Sixth Street Theatre with pianist Radoslav Lorkovic last year at one of Horton’s concerts, she told Horton she was excited about the venue and that it would be the perfect place for a Dolls reunion, he said.
Wood said she loves the Sixth Street Theatre as a music venue. “It is so intimate and just a really nice space for a concert,” she said.
The Chicago-based saxophonist also said she is looking forward to being back on stage with the rest of the Dolls. ”It is such a joy to work with these women,” Wood said. “It’s so infrequent that we get to do this, and when our schedules do fit we know, ‘Yeah!, It’s going to be party.’ ”
The Dolls’ musical party will feature an eclectic mix of everything from Thelonious Monk tunes to torch songs, to original instrumental pieces by Mrs. Fun (Grauer and Zick’s band), according to Wood. The group’s signature songs also include fun numbers such as Lee Dorsey’s “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)” and “Mambo Italiano” by Bob Merrill.
“We do so many different things,” Wood said. “I think that’s one of the things people really like about our show — it’s all over the map.”
If You Go
WHAT: Valley of the Dolls in concert
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25
WHERE: Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth St.
COST: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
INFO: For tickets and information, call Jerry Horton at (262) 770-6858.
Valley of the Dolls is:
• Janet Planet: Hailed as a “Voice of the New Jazz Culture ... amazingly powerful with seemingly limitless expression,” by Jazziz Magazine, Planet has performed with legends such as Jackie and Roy, George Benson and her mentor, Nancy King, and has shared the stage with many other accomplished artists (www.janetplanet.com).
• Connie Grauer and Kim Zick, who together are Mrs. Fun: This duo of Waukesha natives is known for their complex, sophisticated and adventurous music. Mrs. Fun plays a unique blend of off-center jazz, ultra-funk, spoken word, and their own brand of neo-cabaret (www.mrsfun.com).
• Juli Wood: A Chicago-based saxophonist and vocalist, Wood has entertained internationally at jazz festivals and clubs, and has performed with great jazz veterans including Melvin Rhyne, Earma Thompson, Jodie Christian, Ira Sullivan, Barry Harris, and Ted Curson (www.juliwoodsax.com).
Acoustic Soul will open for the Valley of the Dolls show on Oct. 25 at the Sixth Street Theatre. The Kenosha-based duo of Rick Branch and Don Miller play an eclectic mix of rock, Americana and folk, at a variety of venues throughout southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
Joining them on stage at the Sixth Street Theatre will be Mark Paffrath and Terry Pedersen. Go to www.facebook.com/acousticsoulkeno for more.