The Bonaventure Quartet

The Bonaventure Quartet

The Bonaventure Quartet Lisa Love

Lost and Found at the Clermont Lounge

The Bonaventure Quartet

Self Released

Lost and Found at the Clermont Lounge Self-Released Although it hasn’t gotten nearly as much media attention as Georgia’s indie rock, hip-hop and country scenes, Atlanta has had an intriguing musical subculture developing on the “alternative” margins in recent years. Quirky acts such as Kingsized, Bernadette Seacrest, and Blair Crimmins have each found their own brand of success by plumbing different eras of music history, adding just enough of a distinctive twist to create a unique stylistic fusion. Among all of these throwback acts, none seems more timeless than the Bonaventure Quartet. Heavily influenced by the early 20th century “gypsy jazz” sounds of Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt and French violinist Stéphane Grappelli, the band started out as an instrumental trio led by guitarist/composer Charles Williams. They became a quartet with the addition of longtime Atlanta favorite Amy Pike (Greasetrap, The Lost Continentals) on vocals, eventually adding Don Erdman on clarinet, Marla Feeney on violin/flute/sax/backing vocals, and Joel Morris on drums and percussion for the recording of Secret Seduction of the Grand Pompadour. Though it never got the widespread attention it deserved, their debut album was a critical success, earning rave reviews for its swinging sound and playful lyrics, which recalled Reindhardt and Greppelli’s work in the Quintette du Hot Club de France. The band also earned a reputation for impeccable musicianship via its killer live shows. But when Williams and then-bassist Kris Dale got a gig as Seacrest’s sidemen, the “Quartet” went on seemingly indefinite hiatus. Co-written by Williams and his wife, Lynne Dale (a former producer for TV’s Dateline), Lost and Found At The Clermont Lounge is an ambitious undertaking—part of the score for a yet-to-be-staged theatrical production. The storyline centers on an ambitious young artist from Macon who moves to Atlanta in search of her creative muse. But when she arrives to instead find “the crush of the streets in the late August heat,” she winds up taking a job as a dancer at the Clermont Lounge to make ends meet. Williams, who lived across the street from the iconic strip joint for two decades, paints musical portraits of the place as a seedy, Southern Moulin Rouge, with a bevy of colorful characters tailor-made for the stage. There’s the cowgirl named Lil, whose “bump and grind blew their minds, and her cow-cow boogie got them hotter still.” There’s a jaded veteran stripper on “Risqué,” who says Congressmen and princes “all have one thing in common, whether it’s francs, dollars or pounds: They’ll ante up if I’m risqué, because that’s how the game is played.” Then there’s “The Man With the Amazing Hair,” for whom “the girls all turn when he walks into the room. He’s like a garden in the springtime with his pompadour in bloom.” Now swollen to a 10-piece ensemble that includes original bassist Mark Bynum returned to the fold, Herb Avery on piano, Gabe Granitz on accordion, and Ken Gregory pulling double duty on horns and production, the Bonaventure Quartet’s brand of continental jazz has never sounded better. Pike’s voice is in fine form, veering from sweet yearning (“City of Lights”), to bawdy lustfulness (“Dear Dominique”), to mournful balladry (“Maybe Tonight”) with emotive aplomb. If there’s any complaint to be made about the album, it’s that some compositions lack the dramatic dynamic build one typically expects from a stage musical. The melodies (much like the characters themselves) occasionally seem stuck in a loop, as if seeking a satisfactory resolution that simply may not exist. But maybe that’s the point of Lost and Found At The Clermont Lounge: Life isn’t always easy, dreams don’t always come true, and a simple change of location isn’t always the answer to our problems. It may not make for a traditional happy ending, but it should make for a unique stage production that truly captures the melancholic ennui of life in the Big City. –BRET LOVE

Related Posts