ATLRetro’s Throwback to the 20th Century St. Valentine’s Day Guide 2018 – Our Top Retro Picks for Gettin’ Comfy With Cupid!

Posted on: Feb 7th, 2018 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Hey all you dapper fellas and glitzy gals! Cupid got your tongue? Be ours this year and celebrate all that is vintage and Valentine’s in ATLRetro!

1. CROONERS & RED HOT JAZZ. Croon on down to The Earl Smith Strand Theatre for The Sam Cooke Experience, featuring Markell Williams dishing out a soulful revue of “Cupid” proportions at 8pm; $35/$45 (Feb. 14)! Moon River on down to Rialto Center for the Arts for the GSU Jazz Band’s tribute to Johnny Mercer, featuring Joe Gransden and Francine Reed! Swing on by Venkman’s for a romantic night featuring Vince Guaraldi’s classic BE MY VALENTINE CHARLIE BROWN, performed by Dave Ellington’s Peanut Gallery at 6:30pm (Feb. 14)! Or jazz it up during the Emory Jazz Fest’s free Big Band Night at the Emerson Concert Hall, featuring Peter Erskine, Darek Oles, Gary Motley and the Emory Big Band at 8pm (Feb. 10). The Vista Room gets jazzy with Joe Gransden’s Valentine’s Dinner Show at 7:30pm, featuring a Prix Fixe Menu (Feb. 14)! Jazz it up with Diana Krall at Atlanta Symphony Hall at 8pm (Feb. 9)! The Fox Theatre gets some soul and jazzes it up with their 12th Annual Valentine Celebration for Lovers & Friends featuring Jeffrey Osborne and Rachelle Ferrell (Feb. 10)!

2. BLACKHEARTS ROCK. Rocksteady on down to The Star Bar for their Valentine’s Rock –N- Ska! event featuring Kitty Rose & The Rattlers and Kool Kat Rev. Andy Hawley with Southern Ska Syndicate at 10pm (Feb. 16)! Spend Valentine’s Day with Hello Ocho at The Earl dishing out a night of psyche-y Kraut rock featuring Adron, Mick Mayer and more (Feb. 14)! Rock out with Boygirlfriends, Cuntry and more at 529 (Feb. 14)!

3.
OH LA LA!  Burly-Q and karaoke get twisted with The Candybox Revue’s Love and Anti-Love Karaoke at Gaja Korean Bar at 9:30pm (Feb. 8)! Take a peek behind the red curtain during RITUAL’s Moulin Rouge Valentine’s Party at Heretic, featuring DJs, tarot readings, dancing and more from 10pm – 3am (Feb. 9)! Get sinfully seductive at and let Kool Kat Katherine Lashe and her burly-Q gals of Syrens of the South spice up your Valentine’s evening with their Tease Tuesday Burlesque: Hearts & Heartbreakers event, shakin’ it up at the Red Light Café (Feb. 13)! Shake a tail feather this Valentine’s Day at Paris On Ponce’s 14th Annual Valentine’s Day Burlesque with two tantalizing shows each night, 7:30pm and 9:30pm; $45 general/VIP tables (Feb. 9 & 10)!

4. BLOODY HEARTS ‘N’ ARTS.  The Highlander spills their ode to love gone wrong with their Broken Hearts & Bloody Valentines Art Show, from 9pm -12am (Feb. 9)! The Highland Inn Ballroom & Lounge hosts an Inn-Love-Artists-Market, featuring 25 vintage and more vendors from 5-10pm (Feb. 11)! Get wickedly weird this season of love and lust and pick up some local art goodies at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club’s Lovecrafts: Valentine’s Edition from 1-6pm (Feb. 11)!

5. MEDIEVAL & CLASSIC. And for all you knights in shining armor, get really retro and romantic with the royal one in your life and joust on down to Medieval Times for their Valentine’s Celebration!  $110 gets you 2 admissions, a photo, champagne in keepsake glasses and more (Feb. 3-14)!

6. GROOVIN’ UP SLOWLY.  Be a smooth operator and sail on down to Park Tavern in Piedmont Park for Yacht Rock Schooner’s evening of smooth and silly love songs! It’ll be an evening of smooth 70s and 80s love songs, so put on your dancin’ shoes and come aboard (Feb. 9); Doors at 7 pm! ATL Collective presents Sade’s “Love Deluxe” at Venkman’s, 6pm/10pm (Feb. 10)! Dance Your Valentine Off with Susi French Connection at Avondale Towne Cinema at 9pm (Feb. 17)! Spend Valentine’s Day with The Kennedys (Blue Moon Orchestra) at the Red Clay Theatre, doors at 6:30pm (Feb. 14)!

7. LOVIN’ ON THE SILVER SCREEN.  ‘Here’s looking at you kid!’ Take a peek at love and romance Old Hollywood-style at The Earl Smith Strand Theater as they screen Michael Curtiz’s classic romantic drama, CASABLANCA (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at 8pm. Live organ pops variety show and sing-along featuring The Strand’s Mighty Allen Theatre Organ at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for students, seniors, and military. Or if you’re lookin’ for a little late-night rendezvous with a few transsexual aliens, stick around and catch The Strand’s screening of Jim Sharman’s THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at 11:59pm, for $10 (Feb. 10)! For those who can’t make it to Marietta, the Aurora Cineplex in Roswell is also screening Michael CurtizCASABLANCA at 7pm with special treats for the ladies (Feb. 10 & 14)! Or catch a screening of Curtiz’ classic during Northlake Festival Movie Tavern’s Flashback Cinema series at 2:30pm/7:30pm (Feb. 11)! WUSSY MAG presents a 7pm Galentine’s Day event and screening of Hugh Wilson’s FIRST WIVES CLUB (1996) at The Plaza Theater (Feb. 14)!

8. CUPID’S CULINARY DELIGHTS.  Hula on over to Trader Vic’s and escape into the island atmosphere of love with their 4-course Prix Fixe Menu, $65/person (Feb. 14). The French are known for their romantic gestures, so get romantic at Petite Violette (formerly Petite Auberge) for their special 5-course Valentine’s Day Menu beginning at 5:30pm, featuring live entertainment and more for $74.95/person (Feb. 14)!

9. WE GOTH YOU COVERED.  For the darkly romantic, The Oakland Cemetery offers their Love Stories Tour, complete with tales of loves past led by a Victorian-era clad docent. Tours last an hour, just long enough to meet a kindred spirit or even a new love (Feb. 10 & 11)! Spook on down to Folklore Haunted House in Acworth for their My Bloody Valentine haunt at 7:30pm (Feb. 16 & 17)!

10.
COMEDY, THEATRE, & SCIENCE, OH MY! Battle & Brew gets geeky mushy with their COSPLAY: ROMANCE NIGHT at 8pm (Feb. 10)! The Fernbank Museum delivers a night of science ‘n’ romance with their Fernbank After Dark: Love on the Brain event (Feb. 9)! Or be a pair of star-crossed lovers as the Shakespeare Tavern performs their special Valentine’s production of “Romeo & Juliet” at 7:30pm (Feb. 14)!

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Spring Into Cinema: Your Retro Primer to the 2015 Atlanta Film Festival

Posted on: Mar 20th, 2015 By:

AFFlogoBy Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Alongside the first appearance of flip-flops and the musk of Bradford Pears, the arrival of the Atlanta Film Festival at the Plaza Theatre (and other venues) is becoming a new annual rite of Spring. Starting Friday, the AFF is bringing another year of offbeat and engrossing titles, and you can bet that ATL Retro is going to be all over it, providing coverage, features, and reviews of the best of what the festival has to offer.

For Retro-inclined readers out there, we’ve taken the liberty of targeting a few productions that may be relevant to your interests. Every screening at the AFF is likely to be a great time at the theater, but consider this your retro primer. In fact, let’s make that official:

OLD SOUTH

OLD SOUTH

Kick off your AFF experience with a little crowd participation by visiting the folks from Lips Down on Dixie as they present their extremely popular performance of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). Although a Plaza staple for years, the show gets even better when seen with a festival crowd of fervent movie fanatics. You could even decide to see the show twice during your festival-going, if you just can’t get enough of the good Doctor Frank-N-Furter’s “hospitality.” There’s another midnight screening the following Friday. (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW plays at midnight, March 20 & 27, at the Plaza).:

Retro is a broad category, and it can sometimes mean a state of mind. In OLD SOUTH (dir. Danielle Beverly) contemporary values collide with a damaging stereotype from the past as a college fraternity in Athens “known to fly the Confederate flag” attempts to mount an antebellum-style parade in a historically black neighborhood. The film plays with PEN UP THE PIGS (dir. Kelly Gallagher), a film described as “handcrafted, collage animation” that explores connections between old slavery and present-day racism. (OLD SOUTH plays 3/21 at 12:45 @ the Plaza)

Meanwhile, HOLBROOK/TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY (dir. Scott Teems) explores a more positive representation of the old south. Hollywood legend Hal Holbrook’s most famous role is that of Mark Twain, who he’s performed on stage in a one-man show for most of his life. This new documentary looks into the special relationship Holbrook has with his version of Twain, and features new interviews from stars like Sean Penn and Martin Sheen discussing Holbrook’s life and legacy. (HOLBROOK/TWAIN plays 3/21 at 8:00pm @ The Inn at Serenbe Pavilion, with an encore screening on 3/29 at 4:30pm @ 7 Stages)

ThEditor

THE EDITOR

Finally, for retro horror lovers, don’t miss THE EDITOR (dir. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy). In this Canadian comedy-horror film, a shlock film editor with wooden fingers is accused of a string of murders and must clear his name. The production comes from the demented minds of Brooks and Kennedy, two members of the ensemble who brought the world MANBORG (2011), and features genre mainstays Udo Kier (SUSPIRIA) and Paz de la Huerta (NURSE). (THE EDITOR plays 3/21 at 9:45pm @ The Plaza)

Musician Frank Morgan’s life can be used as a cautionary tale about how great talent is no defense against the traps of the world which, in Morgan’s case, manifested as a drug addiction that sent his life and career spiraling into bankruptcy and incarceration. SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY (dir. N.C. Heikin) chronicles Morgan’s struggles beginning with the ups (when the saxophonist was considered a successor to Charlie Parker) all the way to the downs and the back again. The documentary features extensive concert footage featuring the likes of saxophonist Grace Kelly and pianist George Cables, both of whom will appear in a live performance preceding the film. (SOUND OF REDEMPTION screens 3/25 at 7:30pm @ The Rialto Theater at Georgia State University)

THE KEEPING ROOM

THE KEEPING ROOM

THE KEEPING ROOM (dir. Daniel Barber) is a Civil War drama that places the spotlight squarely on a trio of strong, Southern women in a tough situation. When their father and brother go off to fight for the Confederacy, two sisters and their slave must defend the homestead from marauding Union soldiers who are in advance of Sherman’s infamous march. THE KEEPING ROOM is a tense, claustrophobic drama that features known stars Hailee Steinfeld (TRUE GRIT), Brit Marling (ANOTHER EARTH), and Sam Worthington (AVATAR). (THE KEEPING ROOM screens 3/26 at 9:30 @ The Plaza).

Atlanta director and ATLRetro Kool Kat Eddie Ray follows up his 2011 short film SATANIC PANIC: BAND OUT OF HELL with the in-demand sequel, SATANIC PANIC 2: BATTLE OF THE BANDS. The sequel finds our heroes, electronic dance band who pretend to be Satan worshippers for marketing reasons, preparing for a huge band battle while their manager plots to sacrifice them to the Dark One himself. In their new adventure, the band must contend with “secret government spy missions, band rivalries, and growing egos.” Look for an exclusive interview with Eddie Ray here at ATLRetro.com next week. (SATANIC PANIC 2 screens 3/27 at 6:30pm @ 7 Stages)

BLACK SUNDAY

BLACK SUNDAY

The folks from Splatter Cinema join the festival this year with a special presentation of the Italian horror classic BLACK SUNDAY (dir. Mario Bava). Banned in the UK for years—a true badge of honor in the horror world—the film stars the immortal Barbara Steele as a witch burned at the stake who returns 200 years later for bloody revenge. Featuring memorably grotesque and frightening scenes, BLACK SUNDAY is a slam-dunk classic of the genre that is well worth the effort to see on the big screen. (BLACK SUNDAY screens 3/27 at 10:00 pm @ 7 Stages)

LOVE AND MERCY (dir. Bill Pohlad) is an unconventional biography film about the life and career of singer/songwriter Brian Wilson. The film chronicles the young Wilson’s struggles with his musical ambitions, as he seeks to throw off the “surf music” label he had become known for as part of the Beach Boys, and with his overuse of psychedelic drugs. Paul Dano (LOOPER) plays Wilson as a young man, while John Cusack (GROSSE POINTE BLANK) plays Wilson as an adult, on the other side of experiences that left him a broken man. (LOVE AND MERCY plays 3/29 at 12:15pm @ The Plaza)

LOVE AND MERCY

LOVE AND MERCY

And finally, there’s a documentary that has sadly gone retro, as one of our favorite downtown eateries is sadly no longer with us. DANTE’S DOWN THE HATCH (dir. Jef Bredemeier) is a profile of the famed restaurant and its owner, Dante Stephensen. Far more than a place you could eat fondue while watching the alligators lounge in their pool, Dante’s became a landmark for many of us an integral part of the Atlanta landscape, and this documentary ensures that legacy is not forgotten. If you missed ATLRetro’s Kool Kat interview with Dante about his unique decor, you can find it here(DANTE’S DOWN THE HATCH plays 3.29 at 4:30pm @ The Plaza)

Of course, these films represent just a tiny portion of the events, shorts, seminars, and screenings taking place as part of the festival. For a complete list, you need to check out the official Atlanta Film Festival Schedule. And keep an eye on ATLRetro throughout the fest for coverage on all the fun and films. Enjoy this year’s AFF, movie lovers!

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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ATLRetro’s Throw Back to the 20th Century New Year’s Eve Guide – Our Top Ten Vitally Vintage Eras for Toasting 2015

Posted on: Dec 29th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

Ring in the New Year in vintage-style with Retro Atlanta!  Come celebrate what once was in 2014 and welcome with open arms what will be in Pallookaville2015! Start your new year off with a bang with all the hoppin’ shindigs we’ve found for you!

1. And All That Jazz. Ring in the New Year NOLA-style with the 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra at Pallookaville! You’re guaranteed a funky time that includes a kid’s corndog drop followed by the grown-folks’ celebration! Corndogs, 2 Line Strut and Klezmer, oh my! The celebration is free and starts at 8:30pm! Or jazz it up Broadway-style and take a trip to Serenbe Playhouse’s “A Cabaret Celebrating Judy Garland” with award-winning actress Natasha Drena at 10:30pm! And stick around to boogie down at their NYE dance party, all taking place in the Farmhouse Restaurant in Serenbe!

Basement2. Hey, Daddy-O! Twist into 2015 at The Basement during Electric WesternsKeep on Movin! New Year’s Dance Party! featuring a night chock full of ‘60s rock-n-roll, soul, doo-wop and more! The DJs will have you hoppin’, so get dressed up to boogie down! Complimentary midnight toast to ring in the New Year and doors at 8pm! Or let The Star Bar show you where it’s at during their New Years’ Eve Bash & ‘50s and ‘60s Dance Party! Kool Kats Gringo Star will be delivering a whole set of ‘50s tunes while Kool Kat Joshua Longino and Andrew & the Disapyramids will be blastin’ out the sounds of the ‘60s! And that’s not all folks! Black Linen, Zoners will be rockin’ you into 2015! Rock out for $10 bucks and a free champagne toast at midnight! Doors at 8pm.Michelle Malone

3. Deep Roots. Ponder 2014 by getting to the root of it all! For a New Year’s Eve filled with foot stompin’ Americana, blues and rock ‘n’ roll, make your way to Eddie’s Attic for two hoppin’ helpings of the sultry Michelle Malone and her New Year’s Eve show! First show at 7pm! Second show includes special guest Hannah Thomas and starts at 9:45pm! Or get toasty bluegrass-style with BlueBilly Grit at the Crimson Moon Café at 8pm! And get down and dirty at Clermont Lounge, the seedy land of debauchery, as they bring you a rockin’ hootenanny this NYE with Reverend Hylton & the Devil’s Hands, Caleb Warren & the Perfect Gentlemen and Coldheart Canyon! Doors at 9pm with a free champagne toast at midnight!

 5.7BeverlyGW4. That’s Why They Call it the Blues. For some classic blues and jazz, shimmy on down to Blind Willie’s for their Bluesy New Year’s Eve with the powerhouse vocals of Francine Reed! Doors at 7pm and $50 gets you guaranteed seating, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight! Or fire up the blues at the Northside Tavern with Mudcat’s Rockin’ Blues New Year’s Eve Party featuring Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck, Eddie Tigner, Lola, Albert White, the Atlanta Horns and more! $20 cover includes party favors and champagne with doors at 9pm! Fat Matt’s Rib Shack dishes out the low-down dirty blues with the hard-stompin’ Beverly “Guitar” Watkins this New Year’s Eve! Doors at 8pm! And blues on down to Darwin’s Burgers & Blues for their “Kickin’ it LIVE into One-Five” New Year’s Eve Party with Truett Lollis and his Dixie-fried blues and blue-eyed soul! $10 gets you appetizers, desserts and a champagne toast at midnight! Doors at PiedmontParkTavern9:30pm!

5. Smooth Operator. Get ‘70s toasty and smooth in 2015 with Yacht Rock Revue at Park Tavern! And you won’t want to miss special guests Yacht Rock Schooner bringin’ in the funk! So, rock on down and set sail into 2015 with Yacht Rock Revue’s NYE party, featuring an open bar, s’mores, a Mixtape Atlanta photo booth and more! Doors at 9pm!

jagged-stones-jpeg6. Rock Across the Pond. Kick off 2015 with Atlanta’s favorite Rolling Stones’ tribute band, The Jagged Stones with special guests The Big Chicken Beatles Band, paying homage to the Beatles, live at The Strand Theater! Doors at 9pm! Or ring in the New Year with a Brit Invasion at Smith’s Olde Bar in the Atlanta Room with The Backyard BirdsNew Year’s Eve Bash! $10 cover and doors at 8pm!Phillips Arena The Isley Brothers

7. Groovin’ Up Slowly. Get funky and ring in the New Year with a little old school funk ‘n’ soul! Toast the New Year at Philips Arena with their NYE Affordable Old School Music Fest, featuring The Isley Brothers, Morris Day, Mint Condition and more! Doors at 7pm! Or get your NOLA funk rock fix at The Family Dog with theirA NOLA NYE with Gravy Live & Abita Brewingevent! You won’t want to miss the funktastic grooves of Gravy and special tasty treats! $10 cover and doors at 8pm! And cook it up at Cook Hall this New Year’s Eve with Moontower, funkin’ you all night long at their funk-filled holiday fiesta! No cover, doors at 10pm!

Marys8. We’re Stayin’ Alive! In Retro Atlanta that is! Boogie on down to Mary’s in East Atlanta for their annual Attack of the New Year’s Eve Party Monster event, featuring DJs 5 HR Boner & Sam Rothstein spinning your favorite disco, indie, house and rock! There’s no cover and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight! Celebration begins at 9 pm! Hula into the New Year boogie-style during the Trader Vic’s Soul Tiki Disco Dance Party featuring Bogey & the Viceroy and Mai Tais galore! $10 in advance/$15 at the door. Band goes on at 9pm!

9. The Cure for Bananarama. New-Wave is the epitome of 80’s pop culture, so celebrate 2014 while toasting 2015 by continuing The Shelter’s NYE tradition at the Famous Pub with Kool Kat VJ Anthony at their 6th Annual New Wave New Year’s Eve Party! Dress New-Wave, win prizes! The festivities beginFamous Pub at 10pm and $10 gets you party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, a ton of super rare New-Wave music videos and a bunch more surprises! Or get really ‘80s New Year’s Eve style at Bone Lick BBQ at their NYE in 3-D ‘80s-themed 3-D bash! Ring in the New Year with free retro arcade games, 3-D movies, complimentary champagne and more! Tickets are $5 in advance and $45 at the door and event begins at 10pm! And you won’t want to miss Kool Kat Becky EarlCormier Finch with Denim Arcade partying like it’s 1989 dishing out their ‘80s tributes at Wild Wing Café in Suwannee at 10pm!

10. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! Get rebellious and rock into the New Year with some old school punk and plain ol’ retro-inspired rock-n-roll and metal! The Earl delivers a rockin’ NYE Bash punkin’ you into the New Year with The Biters, Dinos Boys, Ravagers, MammaBear and more! $10 cover, doors at 9pm! Or get mischievous and sinful at Hottie Hawgs BBQ during their Boss Hawgs’ New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Sin City Atlanta, delivering a rockin’ AC/DC tribute! Celebration starts at 7pm and stick around for a taste of “wild beast” and a special light show! Ring in the New Year with some old-school blues rock with Gregg Allman at Atlanta Symphony Hall at 9pm! And toast 2015 at Smith’s Olde Bar’s Music Room with a NYE Bash with The Swinging Richards and Buck O Five! $10 cover in advance, $15 day of show. Doors at 8pm!

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ATLRetro’s Throwback to the 20th Century St. Valentine’s Day Guide – Our Top Picks for Gettin’ Comfy With Cupid, Retro-Style!

Posted on: Feb 11th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer

Hey all you dapper fellas and glitzy gals! Cupid got your tongue? “Be Mine”, vintage-style this year and celebrate all that is vintage and Valentine’s in Retro Atlanta! Get romantic, retro-style and see what we have in store for you on this day of love and seduction!

1. Red Hot Jazz. Get jazzy with your love tonight at the Crimson Moon, with Atlanta’s Jazz Diva, Tommie Macon (Tommie Macon & The Gentle Men) and her Evening of Jazz, Wine & Roses event! It’ll be a night of romance, tasty libations made to the little god of love, a special Valentine’s Day menu, a rose for your Valentine and sultry jazz standards!  Doors at 8 pm! Or let Kayla Taylor serenade you with her romantic jazz standards while dancing the night away with your sweetie under the dinosaurs sipping a few sexy cocktails at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX!

2. 80s All the Way.  Find your Prince (or Princess) at Vinyl this Valentine’s Day as you rock out with ATL Collective paying homage to Prince and sharing their intimate re-telling of his classic album, ‘1999’! Or rock on over to the Drunken Unicorn for their Valentine’s Formal, featuring live tunes by Smithsonian, a tribute to The Smiths and Kool Kat Joshua Longino with Andrew & the Disapyramids throwing a rockin’ beach party of love!  So, get dolled up, put on your dancin’ shoes and get down with the one who stole your heart! Doors at 9 pm! Or be a smooth operator and sail on down to Park Tavern in Piedmont Park for Lover’s Day with Yacht Rock Schooner! It’ll be an evening of smooth 70s and 80s love songs and a champagne toast, so put on your dancin’ shoes and come aboard! $15 online/$20 at the door. Doors at 7 pm! And for those about to rock, grab the rocker guy or chick in your life and get sinfully mischievous at Hottie Hawgs Smokin’ BBQ this Valentine’s Day with Sin City Atlanta delivering their rockin’ tribute to AC/DC!  

3. Deep Roots.  Get rustic and spend Valentine’s Day ‘in the round’ old-time-style at the Red Light Café, while rockin’ the roots troubadour swagger with Tommy Wommack, David Olney, Adam Klein and the swampy roots n’ blues of David Jacobs-Strain!

4. That’s Why They Call it the Blues.  Valentine’s Day got you down?  A little too jaded for your own good?  Well, jump, jive n’ wail your way to Big Tex for Valentine’s Day with the Tommy Dean TrioIt’ll be a night of blues, swing, jazz and soul standards! It’s a Rat Pack Valentine’s Day, so come on out and dance the night away! Music and dancing begins at 9 pm!

5. Shakespeare In Love & Really Retro.  Get romantically retro and take in William Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers and feuding families at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center! The Atlanta Ballet premieres Jean-Christophe Maillot’s alluring yet stripped down production of Romeo et Juliette, hailing all the way from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo! The Atlanta Ballet Orchestra accompanies the beautifully choreographed masterpiece with Sergei Prokofiev’s provocative and breathtaking score! Tickets start at $20 and performance begins at 8 pm! And for all you knights in shining armor, get really retro and romantic with the royal one in your life and joust on down to Medieval Times for their Valentine’s Day Couples Package!  $99 gets you 2 admissions, a photo, Valentine’s scroll, champagne in keepsake glasses, a light up rose and 2 admissions to the dungeon!

6. Groovin’ Up Slowly.  Disco on down to Edgewood Avenue for a Valentine boogie with the one you love and your very own Romeo!  DJ Romeo Cologne that is, getting’ groovy at The Music Room on Edgewood Avenue!  Or shake a tail feather and boogie on over to The Artmore Hotel (Studio Lounge) and get groovy with Groove Centric!  $72 will get you the Tastes for Two package, which includes a bottle o’ red, dinner and chocolate truffles!   Or get funky with your Valentine at The Star Bar during their Valentine Daze event with Cousin Dan, xXgLaSsLuShXx and Miss Britta!

7. Lovin’ on the Silver Screen!  ‘Here’s looking at you kid!’ Take a peek at love and romance Old Hollywood-style at The Strand Theater as they screen Michael Curtiz’s classic romantic drama, CASABLANCA (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Enjoy a few cocktails during cocktail hour with your dapper fella or glamorous gal at Rick’s Café Americain, set up in the lobby & lounge, open at 7 pm and throughout the film!

8. Be Mine, Pop Culture-StyleGrab your beloved bestie and even the kiddies for a dinner fit for a king at Pallookaville Fine Foods in Avondale Estates! A king of pop culture and classic monsters, that is! They’ve got monsters and circus freaks and retro-themed food, oh my!  So, you won’t want to miss their Valentine’s Day Feast running through Feb. 16, which includes the essential dinner of love, a ‘la Lady & The Tramp-style, Spaghetti & Meatballs and the fixins followed by chocolate-covered strawberries!  Adults $18, Kiddies $10!

9. We Goth You Covered.  For the darkly romantic, The Oakland Cemetery offers their Love Stories Tour, complete with tales of loves past led by a Victorian-era clad docent.  Tours last an hour, just long enough to meet a kindred spirit or even a new love! Get loved to death while traversing the land of passionate souls longing for love, beginning at 5 pm! $10 adults/$5 students! Or let the blood-letting begin as the Prince of Darkness rocks you while draining your veins at the Dracula: The Rock Opera CD Release Party & Concert with The Little Five Points Rockstar Orchestra, at 7 Stages running through Feb. 15! Or for a Valentine’s Eve (Feb. 13) event, get romantically massacred at  Mary’s for their ‘Goth Nite St. Valentine’s Massacre’ event! It’ll be a Goth throw down featuring classic Goth rock, synth pop, post-punk and even tunes from the New Romantic era!  And, bring a personalized Goth Valentine’s card to score some free swag! And for all you Tim Burton and bleeding heart lovers, get gothic and dress as your favorite Burton character at Jungle Atlanta during their Burton Valentine’s Ball!  It’ll be a night of Burlesque, aerial performances and all things dark and morbidly fantastique! Headlining burlesque performance by Vita DeVoid, dressed as Sally from A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, venders including our swanky BFF artist and vintage vending gal, Jezebel Blue, and so much more! Best costume wins $100! $10 cover before midnight!

10. My Mischievous Valentine!  Get a little naughty this Valentine’s Day with your lovely at Paris On Ponce for their 6th annual Valentine’s Day Show, featuring Burlesque, comedy, female impersonators and a saucy, adult entertainment and atmosphere!  Performances by Raquell Lord, Maya Montana, Coco Couture, Alicia Kelly, Angelica D’Paige, Smoking McQueen, Carmen Corazon and so much more! $45 general. $215 for an up-front for four table including wine/champagne, chocolates and cupcakes!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Still Swanky After All These Years: Amy Pike Jazzes It Up With the Bonaventure Quartet at Oakland Cemetery, Fernbank and Across the Street from the Clermont Lounge

Posted on: Jun 6th, 2013 By:

 

Amy Pike and the Bonaventure Quartet Find Some Swell Songs in the Lost and Found at the Clermont Lounge. Photo Credit: David Murray

The Bonaventure Quartet will be jazzing up both the annual Tunes from the Tombs festival at Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery on Sat. June 8 and Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX the night before on Fri. June 7. So it just seemed like a natural to spotlight vocalist Amy Pike as Kool Kat of the Week.

Amy is quite simply the Cat’s Pajamas. She was one of the pioneers of the Retro/Swing Revival in Atlanta as lead singer and principal songwriter for The Lost Continentals in the 1990s. Songs from their album MOONSHINE AND MARTINIS, like “Swanky Bars and Fine Cigars,” got national radio airplay, and the band won 14 Best of Atlanta Swing awards, including Best Wig. Amy also always seemed to have a knack for finding the best and most swanky vintage dresses which she wore like nobody could. She’s sung for Ford commercials, and also fronted honky-tonk group, Amy Pike and the Last Cold Beer, which won Creative Loafing’s Best of Atlanta in the country music category in 2001.

Amy Pike was a sharp dresser with The Lost Continentals. Photo courtesy of Amy Pike.

With the Bonaventure Quartet, Amy’s a little more Boheme in that the eight-member jazz ensemble (yes, we said eight), particularly owes its origins to a mutual love of Django Reinhardt, the great French gypsy guitarist. She also runs Kitsch Fabric and Craft, a groovy vintage and vintage-inspired materials shop in Asheville, NC. ATLRetro caught up with her recently to find out more about her early musical roots, swinging youth, life with the Bonaventure Quartet, their new CD funded by a Kickstarter campaign, SONGS FROM THE LOST AND FOUND AT THE CLERMONT LOUNGE, and more. We’re happy to report that though Amy may have lost her Continentals, but she hasn’t loss her sass and swank. We don’t know if she ever smokes a fine cigar any more, but she’s still our favorite candidate for the musical equivalent of Dorothy Parker.

ATLRetro: Let’s start with Tunes from the Tombs. Some folks might think it creepy to come hear live music in a cemetery. Tell us why they’re wrong.

Amy Pike-Taylor: Well, frankly, it is a little creepy. I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I will handle the zombie apocalypse. So if you find yourself getting nervous at the show, come on over to our stage, we will be fully prepared for any problems that may arise.

Do you have any special plans for the Bonaventure Quartet’s performance this Saturday?

We will be doing a set of all original jazz tunes. That is a pretty rare thing these days. We are so lucky to have Charles Williams as our band leader! He is an amazing writer as well as guitarist. He can also spit a watermelon seed pretty darn far.

What music did you listen to growing up? Can you name a few of the performers who meant the most to you back then and who introduced you to them?

When I was about 7 years old, our house was robbed and the crooks took all the records except for Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, Simon and Garfunkel and a compilation of belly dancing music. That was it for music in my household as a kid. If you need more explanation of my strange musical tastes or why I like to listen to the same records over and over, I may have to refer you to my therapist.

The Lost Continentals was a groundbreaking force in getting the Retro/swing/lounge revival started in Atlanta. Can you talk a little bit about that side of the music scene back then. Did you think you were being a bit daring by performing hits, old and new, that harkened back to a previous era?

Well, I am not sure I thought about it that deeply at the time. I just wanted to see people dress up and dance together, maybe even touching each other, for a change. I had been in the punk scene for so long I was ready for some romance. And I admit I got a perverse satisfaction out of seeing skin heads dancing to “Up a Lazy River,” which I grew up hearing on THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW.

The Bonaventure Quartet's first CD, THE SECRET SEDUCTION OF THE GRAND POMPADOUR.

You always had the best vintage dresses back then. Where did you find them?

As with all good collectibles, they came to me in various ways. I used to make the guys go to thrift shops when we were on the road. I always had the best luck in Florida and Ohio. They seemed to enjoy it, too, sort of broke up the monotony of the road.

How did the Bonaventure Quartet get started, why the name, and how long have you been playing together?

I met Charles when he filled in as a guitarist for The Lost Continentals. We have been performing together for around 13 years. At that time, Charles lived on Bonaventure Avenue right across the street from the parking lot to the Clermont Lounge. I can’t tell you how many times we sat on his porch in the wee hours after a gig, playing music and watching the show from that parking lot.

How did a quartet end up with eight members?

Fission.

Tell us about the latest CD, SONGS FROM THE LOST AND FOUND AT THE CLERMONT LOUNGE. We can guess why the Clermont, but what did it mean to the band personally and what do you think the Clermont means to Atlanta?

Well, it was born on that screened porch across from the lounge. We always had the best ideas on that porch at around 2 a.m. We could often be heard by passersby saying, “This is the best idea we’ve ever had!” There may have been some adult beverages were involved.

Wasn’t it originally announced for last year? Did it just take longer to get it right?

It just kept growing! At first, it was the one song, then it was a full blown musical! Charles and his lovely wife Lynne Dale have been working on it together for a while now. The album is sort of Bonaventure’s version of songs from the musical “Lost and Found at the Clermont Lounge.”

The musical is about a young woman who comes to the city with dreams of being an artist, a painter actually. Surprisingly, that is not as easy as you think and she ends up at the Clermont.

Anything else you’d like to share about the CD?

Amy Pike before she lost it with the Continentals. Photo courtesy of Amy Pike.

I think you guys will be amazed to hear how lush this recording is. There are so great musicians involved in this project. And as I said earlier, how many original Atlanta jazz bands are there?

Where is the Bonaventure Quartet playing next and do you have any other future musical plans you’d like to share with ATLRetro readers?

Looks like we will be playing Steve’s Live Music in Roswell on July 20. That show will be our CD release party and will involve most of the musicians on the album.

Finally, before we go, you’ve also got a store in Asheville called Kitsch Fabric and Craft which sounds like a perfect fit for our readers. Briefly how did you get started doing that, and do you sell vintage fabrics or reproductions or both?

You know it’s funny; it all started because of those vintage dresses I used to wear. I got frustrated because the old fabrics wouldn’t hold up very well, so I decided to learn to sew so that I could make vintage styles with new fabrics. That little idea turned into a raging obsession with fabrics and making things. Now I have a whole store full of amazing fabric and teach others how to sew daily on vintage sewing machines. Check it out at www.kitschfabrics.com

The Bonaventure Quartet at the Clermont Lounge. Photo Credit: David Murray.

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Slim’s Jukebox: A Quintet of Essential Prestige/Riverside Jazz Collections by Five Masters

Posted on: Jul 5th, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

Imagine my good fortune when a package arrived at my door with five incredible jazz collections, each one by a true legend in the genre. As much as I love country music, every now and then I have to have a good jazz fix. When I was a wee lad, my Dad used to play some old Dixieland jazz records for me – Acker Bilk, Chris Barber and Ottilie Patterson, and many more, so the seeds were planted early. In the ’60s & ‘70s, I was  influenced by Frank Zappa’s jazz odysseys, and I eventually found a path back to the classics through the notorious Weather ReportMahavishnu “jazz fusion” enchantment of my high school years.  So here is a brief summary of five of the most essential artists in the history of jazz, all of whom have brand new compilations on the amazing Prestige/Riverside labels now under Concord Music Group. Please keep in mind that each of these greats has very deep catalogs, and these are mere samples of a certain time span in their illustrious careers.

Sonny Rollins
THE VERY BEST OF
From 1956 to 1958, tenor sax man Sonny Rollins released a series of tracks that stand as some of the finest cool jazz ever. Joined by a cavalcade of equally talented sidemen including drummer Max Roach (who whips out some stunning solos on this disc) and amazing trumpeter Clifford Brown, Rollins was equally melodic and experimental, combining his own material with classic standards and improvising with other legends such as the Modern Jazz Quartet and John Coltrane, whose duet with Rollins on a 12-minute jam called “Tenor Madness” is jaw-dropping good. Even the funky version of “I’m An Old Cowhand” shines with originality. His rich tone, precision playing and keen ear for great material coalesced into audio beauty, and while he continues to blaze new trails in his 80s, Rollins’ baseline set an incredibly high standard of excellence early on.

The Miles Davis Quintet
THE VERY BEST OF
Everybody loves Miles. He was a chameleon who followed his internal musical muse in whatever direction it took him, and sometimes he seemed a bit possessed. There is no shortage of great Davis compilations, and these tracks from 1954-1956 have been well documented in the past. The 10 cuts provide some insight into the transition Davis was making from a bebop player to a more mature, stylistically focused band leader. His Quintet at this time consisted of John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, basically a jazz supergroup. Garland’s hypnotizing piano solos permeate and complement Davis’ muted and buttery smooth tone, which eventually became his trademark sound. “’Round Midnight,” My Funny Valentine,” we’ve heard these plenty of times, but they never fail to generate a deep visceral feeling of being in a dark smoky club, whiskey on the rocks in hand, and the best band in the world playing just for you.

Wes Montgomery
THE VERY BEST OF
A life cut short too soon, Wes Montgomery’s work has been a standard by which all decent and respectful guitarists must compare themselves. His treatments of rock and pop classics on the CTI albums are legendary, and showcased his amazing improvisational skills. But this compilation is a real treasure, as it covers a lot of his lesser known early work on Riverside Records. Montgomery played with his thumb instead of a pick, which resulted in a very smooth tone that became immediately recognizable as his sound. Like his peers, Montgomery utilized the best of the best sidemen, which enhanced his own visibility. With Hank Jones on piano, Ron Carter on bass, the incredible Milt Jackson on vibes (where is Jackson’s “Best Of…” album?), and multiple drummers, Montgomery’s early work is a perfect example of the late ‘50s early ‘60s jazz groove – subtle but confident, melodic but challenging, and manna for the ears.

John Coltrane
THE VERY BEST OF: THE PRESTIGE ERA
He’s the other giant of modern Jazz, standing equally tall as his occasional bandmate Miles Davis. There is no need to elaborate on the importance and influence of Coltrane’s legacy. It permeates most real jazz that has been written and performed since he passed away. Captured here are 10 tracks from 1956 to 1958; each piece is a blast of confident control, a mini musical dissertation on how to make a perfect Jazz record. His time in the trenches with Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk had given Coltrane an education, and obviously inspired a push toward total excellence. With equal parts skill and soul, he blazed through multiple pieces of music, branding each as his own with a rich and powerful command of the saxophone, one that has not really been matched since then. His unique interplay with trumpeter Donald Byrd on “Lover Come Back To Me” is a schoolboy lesson in collaboration and exploration, and simply unforgettable. Fast, slow, jammy or moody, Coltrane could do it all.

Chet Baker
THE VERY BEST OF
He had it all – the looks, the sound, the charisma, the reputation, and sadly, the taste for dope.  Chet Baker has long been an icon, an incredible trumpet player and vocalist whose life circled down into a tragic tale of wasted talent and untimely death, eloquently reinvigorated in a fawning documentary by Bruce Weber (now almost impossible to find).  But putting aside the drama, Baker was a master, who sang and played like an impressionist painter, delivering the “essence” of a melody in a way that pulls you toward it, and allows you to construct the framework in your own mind. From his early 20s, working with Gerry Mulligan, Baker got noticed immediately by both other players and jazz aficionados, and the 14 tracks on this fine compilation give a fairly comprehensive and profoundly entertaining panorama of Baker’s skills.  His ability to turn standards into his own tunes was remarkable, and each cut is a treat. His tender half tempo version of “How High The Moon” is a prime example. As one of the very few jazzmen who also sang, Baker had a honey smooth voice that oozed sensuality. During these sessions, Baker played with an energy and smoothness that belied his impending battles with the demons of excess and temptation, and while he recorded sporadically in later years, he maintained that magic touch until the end.

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Kool Kat of the Week #1: Jazz Meets Mizrahi and Rock: Up-and-Coming Israeli Artist Nadav Remez Brings His Unique Spin to the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 By:

The Atlanta Jazz Festival brings a national and international who’s who of the art form to Piedmont Park for an amazing free concert every Memorial Day Weekend. With so many incredible artists, we decided we couldn’t pick just one, so this week, look out for two Kool Kats.

Nadav Remez. Photo credit: Dana Merison.

The first is guitarist Nadav Remez. He’ll be playing Sunday, May 27 at 6:30 pm. Lauded as one of today’s top emerging jazz voices, he grew up in Israel, scored a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, also studied at the New England Conservatory and now resides in New York. Last year he released his debut CD, SO FAR. As for his music, it has been called “haunting” and reflects the versatility of jazz as an art form merging modern jazz, alternative rock and traditional Israeli folk music.

You have a really interesting background having grown up in Israel and had your first music education there. How did that shape your approach to jazz?

I grew up in the Tel Aviv area and into a situation that resembles many other places in the Western world in the ‘90s. I listened to a lot of pop music, British and American. We had MTV Europe, which was different from MTV in America because it actually played a lot of music, not just reality shows. So when I was a teenager, my musical inclination was very pop-oriented. However, in Israel, international pop was just one channel feeding us musically. We also got some other types of music, what we call mizrahi music which is our folk pop music, popular Middle Eastern music. So we grew up listening on the radio here to one song from the UK Top 40 and then the next song would be Middle Eastern. As time went by, from the ‘90s into the 2000s with the Internet, more people [in Israel] were exposed to different kinds of music, and musicians started mixing these kinds of music together. If you turn on the radio today, you find our pop has a lot of Middle Eastern elements.

Then I went to Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, a famous art high school with a jazz major that produced many famous Israeli jazz artists. That’s where I first heard about jazz, and it was very exciting experience. I was woken up to a new reality. Jazz was a music that’s not just something around you, not just something that you played coincidentally but something very serious and very deep. That’s when jazz came into place for me, into my world. I was lucky to have many teachers dedicated to jazz as an art form, who really taught me a lot about what the music means—teachers who had lived in the US in New York. So they brought their love of jazz over toIsraeland to many of my peers.

Nadav Remez. Photo credit: Dana Merison.

Who are your favorite classic Retro jazz musicians and why?

For me, going into high school, I was so shocked by this new thing in my life called jazz. I just wanted to explore it all around, but my teachers told me that in mu first years of listening to jazz, I should be listening to jazz from the first half of the 20th century up to the ‘60s. That’s when a lot of the innovations in jazz were taking place—Charlie Parker in the ‘30s and ‘40s, John Coltrane in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, etc. I was focusing a lot on bebop, hard bop and post bop, styles that emerged in the early  ‘40s to mid ‘60s. With jazz in those days, it really was about listening to different musicians but whoever I was listening to, they stood out as geniuses because they all were. That being said, I was very much into Coltrane. He and Charlie Parker are like the gods of that era. There are no rules but I’d say to someone who is an aspiring jazz musician in their teens, before you go to newer music, you should check out the roots because that’s where the music comes from.

Your approach is very eclectic and innovative, blending Eastern and Western sounds. Can you talk a little about how you developed your unique style and sound?

That all started when I was at the Berklee College of Music in Boston about five to seven years ago. I and a group of other Israeli musicians started to experiment with long improvisation forms that came from jazz and added Middle Eastern aesthetics to it. That’s where our ears pulled to naturally. After I started playing with it, I also started writing my own music and thinking about my first album, SO FAR. At this time, I was trying to absorb what was around me. Jazz musicians stay close to their roots. So I started to listen to more Middle Eastern music and trying to apply those concepts and ideas into my jazz, and also rock and pop, mainly ‘90s sounds. Radiohead was a very big influence.

Your Atlanta performance is with a special project, right?

Yes, the Nadav Remez/Omer Avital Quintet. It brings together songs that I wrote and songs that Omer Avital wrote. He’s a very important figure in jazz right now and a bass player with many albums behind him, both as a leader and a sideman – currently with Yemen Blues and Third World Love. This [performance] will be a combination of tunes by me and tunes by him. Like all music, it’s in a way both similar and different because we both grow up inIsraelin similar settings. But he’s older than me—he’s 40 now—so he has other Israeli influences from when he was growing up. Even though one could hear both the pop/rock influences, as well as the mizrahi influences, in both our musics, Omer’s music leans more towards the mizrahi, while my music leans a little bit more towards rock. The quintet also includes Greg Tardy [tenor saxophone], Jason Lindner [piano and keyboards] and Yoni Halevy [drums]. It’s a high profile line-up which I am very excited to perform with.

Playing Smalls in NYC. Photo credit: Dana Morgan.

If we go to New York, where should we go to listen to some great jazz?

Personally I like going to places like Smalls, Village Vanguard and Fat Cat. But these days in New York, you can hear great music all over the city, not only in Manhattan. There is a vibrant scene in Brooklyn as well. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper and see what’s going on tonight or look online. I recently found an iPhone app called NY Jazz, that displays a comprehensive list of jazz shows as far as a month in advance. The New York scene is very alive with contemporary jazz, cutting edge jazz and also traditional jazz—which also is cutting edge.

You just said traditional jazz is cutting edge. What do you mean?

Because jazz is a music of the moment. Even if you play with the traditional language from the ‘50s and ‘60s, you can still have lot to say and make very strong statements.

What’s next for you?

[Omer and I] have a few more shows [together]. In June and July, we have a residency in Smalls Jazz Club in New York with Omer’s new band called Band of the East, and then there are several other projects in 2012 that are going to involve us playing and performing together. With my own group, I will be travelling in July to Germany to play at the Palataia Jazz Festival and plan to perform in Israel in August and September.

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Kool Kat of the Week: A Jazz Interlude With Kayla Taylor: Why She Loves ‘30s/’40s Classics, the Unsurprising Success of Her New CD and the Pleasures of Playing the Vintage Artmore Hotel This Friday

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2011 By:

Atlantans who love classic jazz won’t be surprised to hear that Kayla Taylor’s new and sixth CD YOU”D BE SURPRISED hit #23 on the CMJ Jazz charts this week and is receiving airplay across the nation and throughout Europe. Instead, we’re liable to say it’s delovely and just one of those things that had to happen. But then local audiences have had the treat of listening to this Atlanta native and chanteuse extraordinaire resurrect top tunes from the ‘30s,  ‘40s and ’50s  live for a decade or more with musical partner/guitarist Steve Moore. And because this Friday night, Kayla will be performing at one of Atlanta’s coolest vintage venues, the courtyard of the Artmore Hotel in Midtown whose building dates back to 1924, we thought the timing couldn’t be more perfect to make her Kool Kat of the Week.

One of those rare actual Atlanta natives, Kayla literally grew up singing, in her school chorus, church choir and in the shower, but winning two awards in a 7th grade talent show cemented her ambition to make music a career. Along the way, she has performed country music, gospel, R&B and classic and original rock ‘n’ roll until she finally found her heart resided in the golden era of Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin—all of whom are represented on YOU’D BE SURPRISED’s playlist. ATLRetro caught up with Kayla to find out more about why she decided to embrace one of our favorite musical eras, what she has planned for this Friday night at the Artmore, her new CD, what’s next and where you might catch her singing while shopping…

ATLRetro: According to your bio, you always sang even as a little girl, and through the years, in addition to jazz, you’ve performed country, gospel, R&B and rock n roll, too. How did you come to embrace vintage jazz?

Kayla Taylor: I have always loved vintage jazz. The charm and romance of the ‘30s and ‘40s was something that always attracted me. I love how clever the lyrics are. When I was a kid, I watched a lot of old movies that were filmed and set during that time period and found all of it to be a natural embrace. Then in the mid-‘80s, Linda Ronstadt—one of my rock heroes—came out with her Big Band albums with The Nelson Riddle Orchestra and the romance started all over again.

Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

I understand that your earliest award was for singing Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” from FAME? What’s the story and how big an early influence on you was the movie, FAME?

I wouldn’t say that FAME had a big influence on me, but the music and Irene Cara’s voice definitely did. I loved the pure emotion that was in her voice when she sang “Out Here On My Own.” The school talent show was coming up, and so I decided that I’d sing that song. I practiced for weeks in my room with the door closed. I must have played that record hundreds of times. My parents had no idea. I wasn’t trying to win—I just wanted to sing in front of all those people. I was also in a girls’ trio that performed “Sincerely”— a tune from the ‘50s. Well, the trio took 1st place, and I took 2nd place. I was so thrilled and excited. My parents had always been supportive of whatever I wanted to try, but at that point, they jumped completely onboard with my singing adventures.

Who are some of your favorite classic jazz composers and performers, and why do you think their music remains so timeless and relevant today?

Cole Porter, The Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Johnny Mercer . . . there are so many amazing composers from that era that I adore, but these are just a few of my top picks. As far as performers, Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I think the music is so well-crafted that it can’t help but remain timeless and relevant. Most of the songs are about love or the loss of love—that will always be timeless and relevant.

How did you meet Steve Moore and end up working together?

Great Story! Steve Moore was in a rock band called A Fine Line—an original rock project. They ran an ad in the Creative Loafing looking for a female vocalist. (That’s what you did 19 years ago—you ran an ad in a printed publication if you were looking for a musician.) I called about the position. They sent me a demo of some of their tunes, and I thought they were really cool, so I learned them and showed up at the audition. Later that night, Steve Moore was the one who called me to tell me I had gotten the job. That was the beginning of an amazing relationship as friends, co-writers and business partners. We went through several original rock projects together (A Fine Line, OneWithout) and even an acoustic duo (The Adventures of Kayla & Steve). One day we were talking about all these great jazz standards that we both loved and how much we would both love to play that music one day and to have our own jazz combo. Five minutes later we had made a decision to start working towards that direction. That was over 10 years ago, and we’ve been at it ever since.

Kayla Taylor and Steve Moore. Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

Can you tell us a bit about YOU’D BE SURPRISED came together, and what it means to you that it’s doing so well?

To say we are excited is an understatement. OVER THE MOON with excitement might scratch the surface. All of this came about because we hired an expert to handle it for us. We’re indy artists—SmartyKat Records—that’s our own label. We don’t have the connections personally to make this kind of airplay and exposure happen, so we hired Kari Gaffney and Jeff Williams of Kari-On Productions to handle all of it for us. Kari has over 21 years experience promoting and marketing CDs to radio and print media. I have never seen anyone work as hard as she has been working. I don’t know when she even has time to sleep. She’s done a fabulous job for us.

What’s your favorite song on the CD to perform and why?

WOW. To pick one tune—that’s tough because I love every song that’s on the CD. It’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. If I have to pick one, though, I’d have to say the title track—“You’d Be Suprised.” What I love about that song are the great lyrics. They are so clever!!! I love the Marilyn Monroe version.

The Jazz in the Courtyard series at the Artmore, where the building dates back to 1924, promises an urban escape with “sultry music, sexy vibes and sinful drinks.” And the signature cocktail is “The Prohibition.” Can we surmise that the goal is to create a speakeasy atmosphere, and will you be tossing some Roaring ‘20s tunes into the mix?

Artmore is a great hotel, and the courtyard is a beautiful venue. We have a great time playing there and love that they have embraced our music. We’ll still be hanging out in the ‘30s and ‘40s era but love that they have created a speakeasy feel—with a modern twist. All concerts take place in the courtyard, and there is a fabulous firepit and heaters to keep everything warm. If it should rain or turn freezing cold—we’ll move the show into their basement speakeasy lounge. I think we might be good to have this final concert of the season out in the courtyard, though.

Anything else you’d like to share about Friday’s gig at the Artmore?

Reservations are not required, but if you want to reserve a seat, you can email them at sales@artmorehotel.com. Come prepared to have a great time. I have a retro-styled microphone that is wireless so I can move all over the courtyard, and I love to come by and sing to anyone who seems like they might be receptive. Trust me, though—if it’s clear you’re there with a date and you just want to make eyes at each other—I’ll stay out of your way.

Where else will you be playing in Atlanta soon, and any plans for a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED?

Our next big show will be at Feast in Decatur on Saturday, December 3. This will be a great show because it’s the beginning of the holiday & Christmas season, and we’ll have some of the great jazzy Christmas tunes from the era to throw into the mix. This show generally sells out, so it’s a really good idea to call them to make a reservation. We play from 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. with the five-piece combo. The food at Feast is fantastic and we always have a great time. [Call] 404.370.2000 – for reservations.  As far as a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED—definitely something we are thinking long and hard about we just have to make the numbers work out.

Do you really burst into song at the grocery store? If yes, where do you shop?

Not every time I’m in the grocery store, but yes, I have been known to burst into song in the middle of a shopping excursion. My sweet husband, Scott, has been so good about dealing with those moments and I know they have been embarrassing—but sometimes a song just wells up inside and I have to blurt it out. For the record, my favorite place to shop locally is Publix—the stores are smaller and easier to navigate and everyone is super-friendly. If I’m going to travel away from my neighborhood to shop, you’ll find me at Whole Foods.

Finally, we’ve got to ask. What would we be most surprised to know about you?

Two things: first, I am an avid gardener. I love digging holes and putting plants in them and then nurturing them and watching them grow. It fascinates me! The next thing . . . I actually suffer from stage fright on occasion. It’s true.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Jason Merrill Talks Japan Retro at Anime Weekend Atlanta – Jazz, Swing-Dancing, Tuxedos, Burlesque, Giant Rubber Monsters and Much More

Posted on: Sep 29th, 2011 By:

DragonCon may be Atlanta’s best known and biggest pop culture convention, but this weekend more than 10,000 Japanese anime fans will descend on Cobb Galleria Centre and the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel next door for Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA). The four-day pop culture convention kicks off tonight and runs through Sunday afternoon (Sept. 29-Oct. 2,2011).

While all ages attend, the AWA crowd tends toward the young (predominantly high school and college) and effusively enthusiastic in their costuming and passion for anime (for the uninitiated, a uniquely Japanese genre of animated TV shows and movies). Go, SPEED RACER aside, you might not think there’s much Retro about AWA. However, while some kids do go to lock themselves up in a room and watch anime 24 hours a day, thanks to the creativity of the con’s organizers, such as Event Director Jason Merrill, even casual anime fans like us can have a great time. After all, where/when else in Atlanta can you pretend you’re shopping a Tokyo flea market for vintage kimonos and Godzilla and Ultraman toys without spending a fortune on a plane ticket, as well as enjoy live concerts with bands from Japan, a burlesque show, a black-tie ballroom dance with a string quartet and a Saturday night vintage jazz Bebop Lounge?!

ATLRetro recently caught up with Jason to find out not only why anime has such a passionate following but also to get the full scoop on the many fabulous Retro connections and happenings at AWA. To find times and locations for the many fun things he mentions, check out the full weekend schedule here or download the new AWA app for Apple iPhone/iPad or an Android browser version.

How did Anime Weekend Atlanta get started, and how does today’s AWA compare to your early days discovering and enjoying anime?

My brother, Dave Merrill, and I grew up watching PRINCE PLANET, SPEED RACER, STAR BLAZERS, ULTRAMAN and SPACE GIANTS. It was hard to find new items unless you had the right connections. Dave got very active in the tape trading and convention communities so he had a steady stream of new and unusual anime to watch. He and his friends used to gather at my parents home to watch anime. That group became the fan club Anime X, which later threw the first Anime Weekend Atlanta, 17 years ago. I have to admit, I’m kind of glad they decided to throw an actual convention, because I don’t think my parent’s family room could survive this kind of thing.

The difference is night and day. Just the technology alone has made the entire experience so far removed from the old days. We would get untranslated anime on fifth-generation videotapes with bad tracking issues months (if not years) after the show first ran. So keeping up with the action would take a lot of effort. Now shows appear subtitled within a week of the original air date.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, July 11-17, 2011

Posted on: Jul 12th, 2011 By:

Monday July 11

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday July 12

It’s a full moon movie Tuesday as two 35 mm classics featuring creatures on the prowl return to the big screens of Atlanta two most Retro cinemas. Elizabeth Taylor slinks like A CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Read Dean Treadway‘s review of the 1958 film based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same title, also starring Paul Newman and Burl Ives here, and be sure to be there by 7 p.m. for the Mighty Mo‘ organ singalong, cartoon and vintage newsreel. Then at 9:30 p.m. at The Plaza, Splatter Cinema presents AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, the 1981 John Landis-directed cult favorite that introduced audiences to the full-body monster transformation with special make-up effects. Read Philip Nutman‘s review here.

Sultry and sexy ’80s torch-singer Sade performs with John Legend at Philips Arena. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. JT Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  July 13

Sade plays a second night with John Legend at Philips Arena. Vocalist Boz Scaggs sings American classics from Gershwin to Rodgers and Hart at Classic Chastain with former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Deacon Brandon Reeves bring the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavernrespectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  July 14

The Craigger White Band bring back the spirit of ’70s rock at Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. All Thursday shows at the Vietnamese restaurant are free and all-ages. Go Retro-Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologneat Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Hunger Valley Boys.

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