For eight years the King Street Giants have been entertaining young and old alike throughout Sonoma County and beyond with their traditional, New Orleans-style, Jazz music. While many events and shows are cancelled throughout the state, fans of the local group can still enjoy their music with their new album, “Everything Must Go,” to be released August 3.
“The album will have eleven original tunes written by the band, with five of them for the first time ever being vocal tunes,” says Nick Pulley, one of the founders of the band and sousaphone player. “We were largely an instrumental band for years.”
The group, made of up primarily of local Sonoma County musicians, was first started by Nick Pulley and Casey Jones, two graduates of Sonoma State University. Today, Pulley, also a Rancho Cotate grad, is a music teacher for the Gravenstein Union School District, and Jones teaches music at Analy High School. Besides Pulley on sousaphone and Jones on clarinet/tenor sax, the band has five other musicians including Jesse Shantor on alto sax, Jason Thor on trombone, Dan Charles on banjo, Dylan Garrison on drums, and Libby Cuffie, also a Sonoma State University grad, on drums.
The group used to be known as the Dixie Giants, but decided to change their name in 2018 to the King Street Giants when they learned about the connotations the term “Dixie” actually possesses.
“As we started to tour more and travel more to the south we started talking to people who lived in more prominent African American communities, that have more civil war history,” says Pulley. “We learned that the terms “Dixie” and “Dixieland” is basically synonymous with the confederacy. When Jazz was first being created, it was a term that was originally dubbed by record labels that were owned and run by white people to discern that it was white people playing this kind of Jazz, not African Americans. There was a racial divide with that term. On the west coast we don’t have that history – we just play the music. But over time we learned that the term was divisive. As soon as we learned that, we knew we needed to change the name. Especially when you consider that Jazz was invented and created by African Americans in the late 19th century. We thought it was disrespectful to keep the name.”
Interestingly, since the Black Lives Matter movement and activism surrounding it increased after George Floyd’s death, other organizations and groups with “Dixie” in their names also changed, including the Dixie Chicks, a country pop music group, and the Dixie Brewery, an old, well-known brewery in New Orleans.
“It’s reassuring to know that people on an international platform are making the same decision that we made on a smaller platform,” says Pulley.
When they are not on a pandemic lock down, the King Street Giants play at various local music festivals such as the Strawberry Music Festival, the Healdsburg Jazz Fest, the Sausalito Arts Festival, the Lagunitas Beer Circus, Honk Fest West and Rivertown Revival. They have shared the stage with such acts as Bonnie Raitt, Galactic, Rebirth Brass Band, The Wood Brothers, Charlie Musselwhite, New Orleans Suspects, Tuba Skinny and Dustbowl Revival. They have also appeared at events and in commercials for the San Francisco Giants and were winners of the North Bay Bohemian's "Best of" Best Band in Sonoma County award in 2017.
Their third studio album, (4th in total), will be available on most digital platforms including Apple Music, Spotify and through https://thekingstreetgiants.bandcamp.com. The CD can also be purchased at The Last Record Store in Santa Rosa.