Drummer Joe Saylor brings band to Side Door Saturday

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In the early 1980s, at the State Fair of Texas on a brutally cold October night, I saw Bob Wills' Texas Playboys headline the old Texaco Star Stage. Wills was long dead, but this was still a formidably great Western swing band.

At one point between songs, the group's iconic vocalist, Leon Rausch, stepped to the microphone and emitted a belch that can only be described as meaty. Sure enough, he cried out, by way of explanation and possibly even apology, "Chili dog!"

And the band instantly launched into a spirited and virtuosic "Take Me Back to Tulsa."

I thought of all this when I saw an advance for a Saturday concert in Old Lyme's Side Door Jazz Club by Joe Saylor & Friends. Saylor is known as the "Jazz Cowboy," which many East Coasters think is a perhaps incongruous image. 

Not me. Cowboys — as per Rausch and the Playboys and the whole of Western swing — can play the hell out of jazz. Saylor, best known as the drummer for Jon Batiste and Stay Human, the house band for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," can clearly swing. Will he and his Friends play Playboys-style tunes at the Side Door? Who knows? Maybe Saylor's music as a Jazz Cowboy means something else. But I'll bet it's really good.

Oh: will they be serving chili dogs in the Old Lyme Inn restaurant that night?

Joe Saylor & Friends, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Side Door Jazz Club, Old Lyme Inn, 85 Lyme St., Old Lyme; $40; (860) 434-1193.

 

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