Swapping drinks with the Dinos

By Andrew Ross

When a city has so few famous musicians that you don’t need both hands to count them on your fingers, it’s big news when one of them puts out a new album. Such is the case this week as the Dino Martinis release their new Christmas CD, 50,000,000 Santa Fans Can’t Be Wrong. And as if that wasn’t enough excitement on the Calgary music scene for one month, the Martinis are also having a release party/concert next Tuesday, which is open to the public. If that isn’t excitement, then I just don’t know what is.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Calgary music scene (of which Jann Arden constitutes one-fifth), the Dino Martinis’ style tends to range from swing to old-school 1950s rock and roll; music from the era when martinis were the rage and all-night dance parties lasted as long as the band kept playing. Unlike many of the recent swing revival bands, the Dinos write their own material, but they also do some covers of classics, such as "Santa Baby" and "Blue Christmas."

But why a Christmas album, you ask?

"It was an idea that [Brent ‘Guitar’ Kawchuk] had two years ago," says Pat McGannon, the band’s pianist.

Despite the loss of two long-time Martinis in August, the project came together quickly this fall.

"We started recording on Oct. 13, and we had the finished CD in our hands on Nov. 27," he says. "We didn’t know a lot of these songs until a week or even a day before we got in the studio, so the album is really fresh and spontaneous."

Despite their obvious Calgary celebrity status, the Dino Martinis haven’t let fame go to their heads. A strong indicator of their well-grounded nature is that they heed the wise words all musicians hear at least once in their career: don’t quit your day job.

As CBC Radio One listeners know, Don McSwiney (once described as the "world’s tallest freestanding bass player") does traffic reports on The Homestretch. Singer Nicole "Babs" Brennan manages the café at the Northland Village Mall Debaji’s, Kawchuck owns Combustion, a Calgary film production company, and McGannon is a buyer for Nova Chemical Corporation.

"I guess I don’t really think of us as famous," says McGannon, but he admits that "it has its advantages."

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