By Rich Drees - For Weekender

Daddy-O and the Sax Machines set to entertain at River Street Jazz Cafe March 19

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Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs will perform at the River Street Jazz Cafe, March 19.
Submitted photos
Sal Scrimalli is Daddy-O’s frontman, keyboardist and a founding member.
Submitted photos
Former president Bill Clinton has performed several times with Daddy-O. Daddy-O will be at the River Street Jazz Cafe on March 19, but Clinton is not expected to be there.
Submitted photos

Survival in any endeavor requires a certain amount of adaptability. In the music business, that skill plays itself out by being able to keep up with current trends and continuing to give the audience what it wants. That is true for Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs, the 12-piece band that has played throughout Northeast Pennsylvania for more than 25 years.

“Back when we started, we were doing the blues,” said Daddy-O frontman, keyboardist and founding member, Sal Scrimalli. “Then we kind of shifted to a swing thing. Now it’s evolved more of a current, R&B sound, which is what is selling.”

Michelle Conaboy, one of the four female vocalists considers the group a party band.

“We do a mixture of Top 40, classic dance and party songs,” she said.

Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs will play at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Wilkes-Barre, March 19.

Scrimalli credits his front-ladies for keeping the band’s set list fresh.

“We all bring suggestions,” Conaboy said. “If we’re at a wedding and we hear a song that everyone seems to be dancing to and like, we’ll suggest it. Or if we hear something on the radio that sounds like it has a good horn section or a song for females to sing, we’ll suggest it.”

The end result of the group’s changes in style over the years is a song list that lets them perform hits from the Andrews Sisters all the way to Lady Gaga, with classic rock, disco and dance tunes.

Adaptability is a hallmark of Scrimalli’s musical career, starting back in his high school years, when he was a guitar player.

“Some of the guys were putting together a high school band and they said they needed a piano player. I said, ‘I don’t know how to play.’ They said, ‘Oh you just do this,’” Scrimalli recalls, miming playing a simple three-note chord. “So after three years of guitar lessons, I started playing keyboards. I was 16 years old then and I haven’t stopped. I’m 64 now, and I still only use these three fingers!”

The group has its origins in the dissolution of a previous horn-based, blues group, Jumper Bones and the Horns from Hell.

“When Jumper Bones kind of died, (a few of us from that band) picked up the pieces and started the group,” Scrimalli said. He recalls with a chuckle that the name for the group came from original sax player Buzz O’Malley. “His father was called Daddy-o and we kinda stole that from him.”

As is often the nature of long-lived bands, musicians have come and gone from the group. Scrimalli can’t pin a number of how many musicians have cycled through the band, but said this iteration of the group is the strongest it has ever been.

The band’s horn lineup includes Jamie Orfanella on trumpet, Andy Kolojejchick on saxophone and Ryan Berry on superbone. The rhythm section is made up of Joe Moore on bass guitar, Rick Simmers on Guitar, Tom Nourse on keyboards and Nick Costanzo on drums and percussion. Everyone lends their voices to background or lead vocals.

Although the group’s four front line vocalists – Conaboy, Nicole Zywicki, Colleen Reynolds and Ellen Sallusti – joined the band at various times, their own association goes back a ways.

“We all sang together in high school chorus” at Scranton High School, Sallusti said.

Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs played throughout the state and shore points in New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. They also played at the nation’s capital. Thanks to their Scranton connection they played both of Bill Clinton’s inaugurations, and a number of other White House functions.

“We were playing Farley’s in downtown Scranton, right after Clinton won the election in 1992,” Scrimalli said. “In comes Hillary’s brother Tony Rodham who says ‘You guys are great. My brother-in-law just won the election and I’m going have you guys come and play for him!’ Well, I gave him my card and then two weeks later this guy is calling me to clear the date. ‘We need you and your band to be at the Mayflower Hotel at this night.’”

It was the first of a number of gigs the band played at the request of the White House.

“One of which was Hilary’s birthday party,” Scrimalli said. “I think it was her 49th birthday. Then Tony got married to Senator Barbara Boxer’s daughter at the White House. We played that one also. One of the secretaries got married and they had a party in Georgetown and they hired us for that. And of course they had us back to the Omni Hotel for the second inauguration.”

Bill Clinton even played with the group.

“He liked to jump up on stage and play sax,” Scrimalli said. “He would use one of (then current saxophonist) Mike Pryor’s sax. Mike would always have three or four saxes and (Clinton) would say ‘Give me the tenor!’ He just liked playing the blues.”

The band plays a combination of public and private gigs, a schedule that has helped them survive financially.

“We seem to do well with country clubs. It seems like the people who have the bigger budget who don’t mind spending the money. The clubs are a little bit harder some times. When you have 12 people plus a sound guy to pay, you really have to pack the place.”

Many local musicians note the decreasing number of venues in the region and how much harder it is to get people to come out to see live music. Scrimalli thinks his band is able to buck.

“One of things that we try to emphasize with the crowds that come out to see us, we always try to thank them for supporting live entertainment,” he said. “I think it’s become a thing of the past. There’s been a big decline, I don’t know if it is because of this particular group, but things have been on an incline for us. We’ll probably have 50 private dates this year, which we haven’t seen in something like the last five years. We’re very fortunate that we’ve navigated ourselves to something that has been successful and I credit it all to these guys.”

Reach the arts and entertainment department at 570-991-6111 or at [email protected]

12-piece band set to perform at River Street Jazz Cafe

By Rich Drees

For Weekender

Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs will perform at the River Street Jazz Cafe, March 19.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_Daddy-O.jpgDaddy-O and the Sax Maniacs will perform at the River Street Jazz Cafe, March 19. Submitted photos

Sal Scrimalli is Daddy-O’s frontman, keyboardist and a founding member.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_Daddy-O_Scrimalli.jpgSal Scrimalli is Daddy-O’s frontman, keyboardist and a founding member. Submitted photos

Former president Bill Clinton has performed several times with Daddy-O. Daddy-O will be at the River Street Jazz Cafe on March 19, but Clinton is not expected to be there.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_Daddy-O_President_Clinton.jpgFormer president Bill Clinton has performed several times with Daddy-O. Daddy-O will be at the River Street Jazz Cafe on March 19, but Clinton is not expected to be there. Submitted photos
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Reach the arts and entertainment department at 570-991-6111 or at [email protected]