Bonaventure Quartet gets Lost and Found
Gypsy-jazz group scores Clermont Lounge musical
What do you get when you combine the gypsy-jazz stylings of Django Reinhardt and the torchy-twangy mezzo delivery of Patsy Cline with a rowdy troupe of Romani-esque instrumentalists? The only correct answer would be the Bonaventure Quartet, an Atlanta-based confederation founded at the turn of the millennium by guitarist/composer Charles Williams.
The Bonaventure part of the group's moniker seems inclusive enough when considering the range of territory covered by the BVQ: le jazz hot and cool, Broadway show tunes, Latin noir, folk ballads, sea shanties, and the occasional twinge of rock 'n' roll. Actually, the name refers to the street on which Williams lived for 20 years in a house just a few table dances away from the Clermont Lounge. Williams' observations of the comings and goings at Atlanta's iconic strip joint inspired most of the 15 tracks on Lost and Found at the Clermont Lounge. The music and the stories that each song tells resonate with the polished seductiveness of frontwoman Amy Pike's soothing voice, regardless of whether you've ever spotted a celebrity at the Clermont or watched Blondie crush a beer can between her breasts.
Lost and Found is derived from the score for a yet-to-be-staged theatrical production, which was scripted and composed by Williams and his wife, Lynne Dale, a former producer for "Dateline" with Diane Sawyer and ABC. The storyline focuses on a young girl from Macon who moves to Atlanta with dreams of becoming an artist. When fate intervenes, she ends up dancing at the Clermont Lounge. Our protagonist's lyrical journey is rendered captivatingly by Pike, who wowed audiences back in the days when she sang with Greasetrap and the Lost Continentals.
Recorded and mixed by Ken Gregory at his Atlanta studio, Lost and Found exudes the staged ambience of a theatrical production without compromising the beguiling nuances and sparkling instrumental flare of the individual songs. "The Clermont Lounge," a swinging up-tempo number, provides a riff-trading section for Williams and Marla Feeney to strut their instrumental stuff on acoustic guitar and violin, respectively. "Risqué" lays down a striptease vamp over which Pike intones the terms of engagement when the dancers are performing. Joel Morris' vibraphone lends just the right dusky hue to the intimate nothings exchanged in "The Things We Didn't Do." For "The Man with the Amazing Hair," Williams jaggedly saws an electric guitar in tandem with Don Erdman's lusty roadhouse tenor sax while Pike croons the lurid details that paint an amusing portrait of the type of sleazy character without which no self-respecting dive bar could rightfully assume the label.
Straying slightly from the album's theatrical premise, Lost and Found concludes with "Le Premier Anniversaire," an unabashedly romantic instrumental that regular fans of the BVQ will appreciate for its distinctly Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli orientation, which showcases Williams and Feeney along with Gabe Granitz on accordion, Dan Coy on rhythm guitar, bassist Mark Bynum, and drummer Joel Morris. Rounding out the instrumental cast are Herb Avery (piano) and Ken Gregory (trumpet/trombone/mellotron). Feeney is credited with all of the album's arrangements and orchestration for which she deserves major kudos.
The BVQ's previous release, The Secret Seduction of the Grand Pompadour, slots into the concept album category with its loosely themed songs about an eccentric bon vivant. Lost and Found at the Clermont Lounge sharpens the strategy by depicting an artist's melancholic life in a series of lyrical vignettes, which rarely have been rendered with such sweetly scented ardor and empathetic candor.