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Funky White Ghost Shivers comes to ECC on Astini News

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White Ghost Shivers perform at ECC Feb. 4 and 5. | Courtesy of ECC

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'White Ghost Shivers'

♦ Feb. 4

♦ Elgin Community College, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin

♦ Tickets, $20-$25

♦ (847) 697-1000

Updated: January 27, 2012 10:42AM

Just in time to heat up the cold North comes a red-hot jazz band from Austin, Texas.

White Ghost Shivers comes to Elgin Community College's SecondSpace Theatre for two shows: 8 p.m. Feb. 4 and 4 p.m. Feb. 5. A White Ghost Shivers show is like a Prohibition-era nightclub, full of vaudeville, blues, hillbilly swing, country and jazz music.

"We sort of combined music, dance, comedy, physicality and theater of the early part of the last century, mainly focusing on 1920s, 1930s," said frontman Westen Borghesi. "As we all grew up in the '70s, '80s, '90s, we have this modern theme about it we can't seem to shake. But it's a very high-energy show, and we focus on physicality and musicianship."

Old 1920s jazz isn't the first type of music most young people gravitate to. The music picks you, he said.

"I think when you get into this kind of music, it's all by mistake," he said.

He discovered this 1920s jazz when he was working in the music section of a Borders bookstore in Seattle.

"They had an incredible music section, and my boss let me take a hold of the jazz section," he said.

He followed the beacon of the Western swing great Bob Wills south to Dallas, where he met like-minded musicians who eventually became his band mates.

Instruments you'll see onstage at a White Ghost Shivers show include guitars, violin, tenor banjo, ukulele, clarinet, tenor sax, stride piano, jug, musical saw, slide whistle and upright bass.

"Back then, those were all pretty common. It was popular instrumentation, back then," he said. "It's different to us now."

Borghesi plays the tenor banjo, which was the primary rhythm instrument of that time, even more common than the guitar, at that time. He also plays ukulele, as well.

"And I do a lot of dancing, too," he said. As he tops out at a cool seven feet tall, that's a sight in itself.

They wear costumes onstage but don't use a lot of props. But Cella Blue, the female lead singer/flapper girl, likes to hand out toys to the crowd, he said.

"We really try to focus on the musicianship and dancing," he said.

White Ghost Shivers plays almost entirely original material.

"We'll do covers, but they're going to sound a little more obscure," he said. "To a listener who's not familiar with the music, they won't be able to tell the difference between originals and covers, basically."

He likes to think White Ghost Shivers provides a bit of musical history and education at their shows.

"You're definitely educating people visually and through audio interpretation, but it's not like we're sitting there talking history," he said. "But, there are a lot of people who are unfamiliar with that style of music nowadays (but) I think … it's kind of embedded in the back of their brain. Looney Tunes and 'The Little Rascals' and 'The Muppet Show' – all that was still playing old ragtime and vaudeville. So when people see and hear it, it will have a familiar air about it.

"Hopefully people are inspired enough to … find out more about it," he said. "It's not one of our main goals to educate people, but we hope people take something from it."

People can expect a very high-energy, fun show, he said.

ECC's Culinary Arts and Hospitality Department offers a dinner theater package at both shows as part of the Center Stage Club series. It's a three course meal with entrée, appetizer and dessert. Wine is available for purchase that has been selected to pair with the entrée offering.

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