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Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003 02:20 pm

This time, no Rat

About this time last year, Duke Tumatoe and his Indianapolis-based blues band, The Power Trio, gave a free concert at Jazz Central Station atop the Springfield Hilton. Tumatoe didn't know he was playing for free. Nobody knew, except the local promoter who allegedly ran off with Tumatoe's money.

A few months earlier, a man using the name Jeff Prudomme and the business name King Rat Productions had booked Tumatoe at the Hilton. Prudomme's real name is Jeffrey McCrary, a Springfield promoter with a prior theft conviction. Long story short, Tumatoe played to a full house but by the time the music stopped, the promoter was nowhere to be found - and the $1,100 take Tumatoe was promised was missing, too. In late December, embarrassed Springfield music enthusiasts threw a fundraiser for Tumatoe, an established recording artist, and made enough to pay him back in full.

"In my 35 years of playing, I've never seen anything like it," Tumatoe says of the kindness extended to him by Springfieldians. "Normally, you don't expect people to act like that."

Even after last year's experience, Tumatoe says he would have returned.

"To be quite honest, that situation was totally unique," he says. "We deal a lot with established promoters. It was a very well-contrived fraud, as it were. The guy was good, or bad, however you decide to look at it."

On Wednesday, Dec. 10, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tumatoe and his band return to Jazz Central Station. Tumatoe says he's got some new songs, including some of the Christmas variety, and will have a re-released greatest hits CD available.

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