Playing Dr.

The members of Dr. Zhivegas have lives beyond the stage

Kasimu, trumpet player: A jazz-head and hip-hop producer, Kasimu is the navigator of the prison van, taking a turn behind the wheel when fellow horn player Lew Winer doesn't feel like driving. Kasimu dresses sharp in vintage clothes -- light-green mohair sweaters, old Dan-Jac winter coats. "I always had other jobs, like stocking groceries, renting cars," he says. "I never made a conscious decision, like, 'I want to be a musician.' I'm just a musician. After I graduated from high school, I was going to go to cooking school, I was going to go to engineering school. And one night after work I came down, had my work clothes on, and I sat in, and that was it." When he joined Dr. Zhivegas, Kasimu was stunned, especially given his jazz background, by the crowds the band draws: "I was, like, 'Wow, man. There's all these ... ladies! I got fans!' I mean, doing the jazz thing, you play all these little lounges to these older folks, people my parents' age."

Lew Winer, saxophonist: At various times, Winer has played with Oliver Sain, Fresh City, Sky Bop Fly and Soul Reunion. "I actually get into the show stuff," he says. "I don't mind fooling around, being foolish. It used to be uncool to do all that. When you're in other bands, jazz bands, you're trying to be a purist. And that's cool: I'm playing, and people are listening. But in this scene, people aren't really listening that well, and mostly they're just looking at a bunch of lights and noise, and it's a different kind of stimulus that they react to."

Denise Atty, background vocalist (soprano): Denise is a born singer. "It's all I do," she says. "If I couldn't sing, I wouldn't be able to survive." She's also the matriarch of her family gospel group, A&B for Christ. Despite her love of singing, Atty occasionally hesitates when called on to perform her signature solo number, "I'm Every Woman." "We crack up," Muriel laughs. "She says, 'I don't want to do it tonight.' She lobbied to not play it last night -- she's telling me that she's not going to be able to do it, it doesn't come out. And I'm, like, 'Whatever. Even on half of a vocal cord, you could outsing anyone I've ever heard.' She always tries to get out of doing it, and I'm, like, 'Nope, put it in there anyway.' And she wails."

Erminie Cannon, background vocalist (alto): More unassuming in her demeanor and presentation than Atty, Cannon has a sturdy voice, especially during "We Are Family." She lights up when the two singers are dancing and, like Atty, seems to love being up onstage. During "Bad Girls," Cannon sparkles when she's singing the backing "beep-beep, yeah, beep-beep" parts. Asked whether she ever gets sick of being in Zhivegas, sick of singing the same songs, she expresses a kind of bafflement. "No," she says. "I just love it." She's played in cover bands for most of her adult life: "Some of it was the same, but we didn't do disco. We did new stuff every week, so whatever was hot at that time, that was what we played." She also sings in alt-rock band Stir's annual homage to Pink Floyd.

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