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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Itís swing time

Paul Tillotson & New York Connection perform three-night gig

Express Staff Writer

Paul Tillotson is wearing green. On his head is a furry green cap, "I am Butt Furr," he claims. Heís also donning green pajama bottoms and a green sweatshirt. Heís so unhip itís comical. It is, one must confess, St. Patrickís Day and Tillotson, a musician, loves holidays. He does gigs for New Yearís Eve, Valentineís Day, whatever. He is one happy guy.

Tillotson also is one talented guy. A pianist and composer, he has been playing in the Sun Valley area for nearly 20 years. But itís his on-going seven year winter gig at the Sun Valley Resort that has established his reputation here. He spends the reminder of the year at his home in New York City and on tour.

For his seasonal finale, Tillotson and his performing friends and band mates, dubbed the New York Connection for these yearly gigs, are taking it big. Their concert is being staged at River Run Lodge, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 25 Ė 27, at 9 p.m.

Last year, the seven-member band played a sold-out three-night gig at the Boiler Room in Sun Valley. A bigger venue was clearly called for and SV Beverage Manager Art Carrick took care of it. There will be a dance floor set up for the concert, the bar will be open and Brick Oven Pizza will be for sale.

Sun Valley Co. has arranged for a free shuttle bus to take guests to River Run for the show.

"You go out, have dinner then come dance," Tillotson said.

The band members are all working musicians in New York. Michael Merrit, on bass and drummer James Wormworth play with the Conan OíBrien house band. Because the show is on a spring break they can take the time off to be here.

So, whatís the attraction for these happening musicians to fly way out here?

"They like me," Tillotson says. "We like to play together and they all love Sun Valley. People are so receptive here."

Craig Dreyer and Pete Francis both appeared in Sun Valley in separate shows earlier this year with Tillotson, and both have new CDs out. New to the New York Connection line-up are Bongo Bruno and Pete Levin, who played with the Spin Doctors.

"Bongo is a mad Puerto Rican," Tillotson says. "He plays the congos. Weíve got rhythm."

A Boise native, Tillotson learned piano at the knee of his mentor, Gene Harris. "He was my musical father," he says. "We had a long lasting relationship until he died. He came to all my shows. I am the son of two fathers."

Tillotson is playing this yearís Gene Harris Festival on Thursday, April 1, in the Rose Room of the Belgravia Building.

As well, Tillotson is loyal to the Buhl Arts Council, where he has played a sold out Valentineís dinner and dance for the past four years with Wormworth and Wood River Valley bassist Jeff Rew.

In fact, Rew has been a colleague for years. Tillotson used to play with Rew and Curtis Stigers at Elkhornís Jazz on the Green shows each Thursday evening in the summer.

As well, Rew and drummer Josh Kelly are part of the Paul Tillotson Trio that plays daily at the Duchin Room in Sun Valley each evening from 4 to 8 p.m.

On the right coast, Tillotsonís life is heavily immersed in another group, The Love Trio, which also includes Merrit and Wormworth. They play gigs around New York, at Luxia on West 48th Street for instance, and this summer at Three of Cups in Greenwich Village.

The Love Trio also has a large following with a young set of lindy-hoppers, who hire them for large gatherings of pure, unadulterated swing dance groove.

"We have a relationship thatís intensive," he said. "Theyíre very cool." In fact, the Love Trio are cutting a live CD for them at their next large gig in Stamford, Conn., in May.

Itís no accident Tillotson wears green and has a large smile always plastered on his face.

"To do what I do, thatís that makes me happy."


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.