Local band's latest CD "Scratching the Surface"

PLATTSBURGH At the end of a hard day, Dr. Russell W. Hartung likes to pick up some sticks and hit the drums. As the medical director for Emergency Medical Services at CVPH Medical Center, the stresses of the job can be washed away when he unwinds with his friends, in their band Pure Blue. The band consists of himself on drums, co-worker Dr. Ingrid Hohimer-McNicoll on vocals, local musician Jay Lesage on keyboard and Tim Hartnett, a research librarian at SUNY Plattsburgh, on bass. With a strong influence of blues and jazz, the local quartet has been coming together to make music for the past few years. We began playing about two and a half years ago, recalled Dr. Hartung. Weve really only been performing for the last year, but before that we spent time just getting to know eachother and having fun practicing. We just get together as often as our schedules will allow and have a great time, he added. The band first came together when Dr. Hohimer-McNicoll came to CVPH to interview for her current position in the same department as Dr. Hartung. We went out to dinner with her and her husband and we started talking about our interests and what people do in their spare time, Dr. Hartung said. She mentioned she had a minor in jazz vocals in college. I knew of Jay from him playing piano at Anthonys [Restaurant and Bistro], and thought getting the two of them together would make for a good sound. I knew of Tim from him playing with the band Zip City and Pure Blue began from there. What turned the band from being a garden-variety backyard jam session to a popular name on the local music scene was Dr. Hohimer-McNicolls husband, who grew up in Montreal. It was there the band was able to reach out to one of her husbands friends, who owns a professional recording studio. The band made the trip north to spend a day last January laying down tracks for their debut CD, Scratching the Surface. Fast forward nine months later, the CD was officially introduced during a release party in October. After running into a few technical difficulties with their homemade copies of the CDs, the band decided to enhance the quality of their album by having it professionally copied by a firm in New Jersey. Just recently, the new and improved Scratching the Surface is back with the band at their shows and on shelves at Bobs Music in Plattsburgh Plaza and Borders book store at Champlain Centre. The CD demonstrates the different genres in which Pure Blue dabbles, with artist covers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Marc Cohn to Billie Holiday to Bonnie Raitt. The bands repertoire extends even further than that, with other influences such as Tom Waits, Eva Cassidy and The Beatles. We love changing things around, making them our own, said Dr. Hartung. And weve gotten really good feedback. People really seem to like [the CD]. Theres a real mix of stuff on there ... really something for everybody. Pure Blue will be performing this Wednesday, Dec. 26, at Southgate on U.S. Avenue, from 8-10 p.m. Scratching the Surface will be available at the after-Christmas gig for $10 a copy $4 off its price at the local stores. If you miss next weeks performance, keep an eye out for more to come in the next few months. Dr. Hartung said the band is aiming to play locally at least once a month and is making plans for a benefit concert for CVPH in June.

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