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Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade Are Bold and Jazzy

Venue: One Longfellow Square, Portland ME ~ October 2, 2010

Oct 23, 2010
Kimmy Sophia Brown

Miss Tess is a one of a kind act that eludesclassification. In fact, her genre might be defined by one of her album titles; “Modern Vintage.” She has a great voice, clear and flexible, with wonderful intonation, range and power. Her compositions are unique and her song choices differ far and wide.

I first became aware of her when she was part of thelineup on the Cayamo Cruise that I enjoyed in 2008. I intended to see her but somehow never made it to the venue on the ship where she was playing. The buzz was that she was something like Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks which is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite bands in all the world.

So I was very glad when I heard she was coming toPortland. My daughter and I attended her performance at One Longfellow Square.

Miss TessFrom the moment her bassist brought out his very newlooking, highly polished, gorgeous bass, and the rest of the band took their places on stage, we were riveted. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times but I’m going to have to say it again in regard to this band. I’m still amazed by how much music can come out of just FOUR MUSICIANS on a stage. Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade have a BIG SOUND! They were fantastic musicians, and I am so humbled in the face of people who really know what they’re doing individually and collectively with their instruments.

They started out with kind of a Miles Davis, “cool jazz”number, and then went on to some of the waltzs from their new EP, “Darling, oh darling.” She delivered some of the tunes with the syrup- like tone of Patti Page (who ironically has a farm and a side business selling maple syrup somewhere in New England. But I digress.) “Riding my bicycle,” sounded like a Joni Mitchell jazz tune. “Why must you treat me this way” and “It’s got that oo oo oo” ventured into Dan Hicks-land. “I don’t need that man” was kind of a one for the money, two for the show, go man go-ish, 50’s style rock tune.

The drummer, Matt Meyer, was adorable. He had a very sweetface and glasses and hair that stuck to his forehead or stood up depending on the song, and he played with such impeccable feeling and panache. Wow, I just could not stop watching him, whether it was brushes or sticks, he coaxed so many sounds and rhythms out of his drums. It was such a pleasure to listen to him and watch the sweet expression on his face.

The bass player, Paul Dooley, was very deft as well, veryquiet and unassuming, but extremely competent and understated as he built the reliable bass line on tune after tune. Miracle reed man, Alex Spiegelman, was a whirling dervish, a tazmanian devil, a white tornado on the sax and clarinet, inhaling power breaths from the depths of his body and blowing the most amazing and interesting contours against Miss Tess’s melodies.

She has a real, big old sassy Weymann guitar and can playup there with the other real good girl guitar pickers. She played rhythm, she played lead, and she played well as she belted out tunes like “Train Ride” which almost sounds like a klezmer song infused with the theme from “Rawhide”.

Other tunes were “Savin’ all my love” and “I can’tbelieve you’re in love with me” (which she said she learned from Peggy Lee,) and then back to the Patti Page sound with “Save me St. Peter”.

One of the last songs she performed was a truly beautifulrendition of “End of the World”, which was kind of a sappy hit for Skeeter Davis in 1961. Miss Tess strained out the sap and sang it straight from the heart and it was really beautiful. I heard it anew and it broke my heart.

Why does the sun go on shining?

Why does the sea rush to shore?

Don't they know it's the end of the world,

'Cause you don't love me any more?

If Miss Tess comes to town again, you’ve got to go and seeher. She is the real deal. Great pipes, a unique presentation and a peerless band.

You can find her online at

For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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