Scandal in Bohemia
Thurs. June 4
A small crowd thoroughly enjoyed some spiced-up jazz on the top floor at Mistral during the the Jazz Artists of Charleston's Upstairs at Mistral series. Thursday evening's event featured local quintet Scandal in Bohemia performing one of the most lively and enjoyable Mistral sets I've seen and heard during the series. Accordionist and emcee Nathan Koci — a longtime Charleston musician and arranger who just recently relocated to N.Y.C. — was very amusing and charming on the microphone as he announced the tunes and introduced his bandmates — flute player (and CofC music professor) David Heywood, tenor and soprano sax player Robert Lewis, upright bassist Jeremy Wolf, and drummer Ron Wiltrout (of the Rudy Waltz, Kopaja, Illuminati/Outro, and various New Music Collective projects and events).
Things were on fire quickly with the rapid-tempo opener — a wild romp in 6/8 time under the title "Scandal in Bohemia" (Koci explained afterward that he borrowed the tune and the name from a composer in Columbia). A softer-toned piece (written by Wolf) followed with some nice interplay between the accordion, flute, and sax.
"Some of you might have expected kind of a weird set of instrumentals," said Koci to the audience. "Actually, these songs aren't so weird ... we've done 'weird' before, and this isn't too weird," he laughed. It wasn't too weird in an aggressively avant garde style, surely, but the group certainly delved into some exotic, Eastern European-tinged stuff, some of which tapped along in very fast 7/8 and 9/8 patterns.
Together, Wolf and Wiltrout led the way as the quintet stretched out farther into peppery improvisation. Wiltrout's unending series of patterns, snare/tom combinations, and cymbal accents added much of the spark. He was in constant motion all evening, even swatting into the air (right on beat) during sudden rests with his sticks, brushes, and mallets. Another great highlight came with the only vocal performance of the set, when local musician and songwriter Bill Carson (currently on Lindsay Holler's Western Polaroids) sang at side stage a beautiful rendition of the cinematic hit song "I Will Wait for You " (from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg).
One of the most encouraging aspects of the JAC's series is the fact that most of these featured acts are comprised of busy musicians who will continue to perform locally. It's exciting to anticipate what this talented bunch might do next. Check out jazzartistsofcharleston.org for more. —T. Ballard Lesemann
For more jazzy reviews from the Spoleto season, click onto the Spoleto Buzz pages.
(photos by T. Ballard Lesemann)