Alaskan Airlines flies into Lakely

Local trio performs jazz renditions of popular film and TV themes

Elliot Adams

More stories from Elliot Adams

The Tator
May 9, 2023

Photo by Elliot Adams

From left to right: Greg Manning, Will Deblaey and North Skager performing at The Lakely.

On Saturday, April 8, jazz trio Alaskan Airlines performed at The Lakely. The trio, made up of Greg Manning, Will Deblaey and North Skager, performed a setlist filled with jazz and Latin-inspired renditions of popular film and television scores. 

According to Skager, the drummer, the group came about the previous year when Manning, the guitarist, invited Deblaey and Skager to join him at a gig at The Lakely. 

“Greg had the idea of putting together TV themes,” Skager said. “So we have been doing that for a few gigs, this is our third or fourth time doing this.” 

According to Deblaey, the group’s song selection came from a desire to branch out from traditional jazz standards into using songs that are more culturally fresh. Their setlist included many Disney songs along with TV show themes from the past 60 years. 

“That’s kind of all in everyone’s collective consciousness more than like Cole Porter tunes from the ’20s. And that’s not to condemn that,” Deblaey said. “We still operate in that model too, but it’s like finding something that speaks to us and applying that model to songs we culturally know now.” 

According to Manning, the group developed out of working with each other at The Aviary Studio in Menomonie. 

“It was kind of the reason I was like, ‘Hey man, you guys want to just play together, like play big,’ because we were so focused-centric on making sure that we were up to meeting the needs of the clientele,” Manning said. “Where this kind of gig for us, it’s like, ‘We’re just going to play some fun tunes that people recognize and enjoy.’”

The Aviary Studio opened in 2020 and according to Manning, focuses on emerging artists in the Chippewa Valley. 

Manning said the mission statement of the Aviary Studio is getting artists off the ground and helping individual artists to take their music to the next step without having to deal with the pitfalls that come with the music industry. 

“I think for a lot of people it’s either a daunting task or it’s a task they don’t necessarily understand or they have a negative experience with that’s more jarring to them,” Manning said. “We sort of started in the pandemic as a result of there being just not a whole lot of music happening.”

According to Manning, word-of-mouth and jam sessions led to the space becoming a fully functioning studio for local artists. 

Deblaey and Skager are also members of Down Loadable Collective and Sweater People, along with several other groups in the Eau Claire music scene. According to Deblaey, he keeps himself available because he appreciates the opportunity to explore several different areas in music. 

“I’m really lucky to be able to play a bunch of different music in Eau Claire,” Deblaey said. “I play classical music sometimes, I play a lot of jazz like this and I play in a bunch of bands too that play all sorts of different stuff. Everyone’s pretty cool with me just being able to do a bunch of different things and respecting that we have a wide area of music that we play.” 

According to Skager, the reason he has time for multiple music groups is a lot simpler. 

“I’m less poetic,” Skager said. “For me, it’s two things; I say yes to everything that I can and I don’t sleep.”

Skager also said that he has much appreciation for the support of local music in Eau Claire. 

“It seems to me that Eau Claire as a city is very supportive of the arts,” Skager said. “The people who live in this city who aren’t artists themselves still appreciate the arts and show that by attending events like this.”

According to Deblaey, he believes part of the draw for local music in Eau Claire is its proximity to major cities like Minneapolis and Madison, Wisconsin, and the support of UW-Eau Claire. 

Manning said that maybe the reason for Eau Claire’s vibrant local music scene is a bit more mysterious. 

“I’ve always thought there was just something in the water,” Manning said. 

Adams can be reached at [email protected].