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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From Greenwich Village to Classic Chastain: Jonathan Beedle and AJ Swearingen Recreate the Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Posted on: Jun 2nd, 2013 By:

AJ Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle. Photo credit: David Leavett.

Musicians AJ Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle are bringing their unique tribute, Sounds of Simon & Garfunkel to Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Wed. June 5. The two musicians have earned a huge fan following on their own for their performances, often appearing alone on stage with an acoustic guitar recapturing the duo’s early years in Greenwich Village. However, this performance, part of the Classic Chastain series, will offer the extra special treat of hearing AJ’s warm baritone and Jonathan’s soaring tenor backed for part of the night by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by ASO Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski.

ATLRetro caught up with Jonathan recently to find out more about how a chance meeting led to the creation of a memorable partnership that recaptures the magic of one of folk/acoustic rock’s most iconic partnerships.

ATLRetro: So it all started at a local club in Bethlehem, PA in 1991. What drew you both together and why Simon and Garfunkel personally?

Jonathan Beedle: I met AJ at a local club in Bethlehem, PA in 1991. He was doing a lot of tunes from the 70s and a few Paul Simon songs.  We started talking during a break and discovered we had a mutual interest in Simon and Garfunkel.  He invited me up to do a song with him, a Simon and Garfunkel song, and the blend was very nice right out of the gate… just effortless.  That’s how it all started.  Over the next few months we started to learn more of the songs, and before we knew it, we knew most of the S&G catalog.  We never planned on learning almost all of the material, but we enjoyed the music so much, it just happened.`

Did you grow up with Simon and Garfunkel? How did you first discover their music?

Yes, I grew up with their music. My older brother and sister had their records and the music was alway playing through the house… along with The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I loved the harmony parts – those parts I learned first. I don’t really know why, but that’s what interested me and that’s what I gravitated to.

You both concentrate on Simon and Garfunkel’s early years in Greenwich Village. Can you talk a little bit about what was special about that time and place and the duo’s early partnership/music? 

In our show without the symphony we try and deliver the music the way they did back in their Greenwich Village years – just one guitar and two voices. We love the sound striped down to it’s bare elements. The songs stand on their own. The words and the melodies are so powerful.

Jonathan Beedle and AJ Swearingen. Photo credit: David Leavitt.

Simon and Garfunkel are an acoustic duo, but you’ll be backed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. How does they change/enhance the performance?

It is a different presentation of the music. The records they recorded were fully produced. It’s a thrill for us! It adds such a wonderful dimension to the music, the arrangements are beautiful, and the musicianship is remarkable.  It’s an honor to be standing on stage performing this music with such amazing talent.  When Michael Krajewski approached us with this idea both AJ and I thought it was a wonderful idea.  And to be able to do it, it’s really quite incredible. I feel very fortunate to be part of it.

What is your favorite Simon & Garfunkel hit and also a song that’s less well-known but which you personally like? Why these songs?

My favorites are constantly changing.  It depends on the audience, how you feel; so many things happen while performing the song, it’s hard to have a true favorite. Both AJ and I love the… I don’t want to call them obscure because once you hear the song it’s something you recall.  AJ likes to call them songs you forgot you remembered!

But there are a few that we love to perform:  “Flower’s Never Bend with the Rainfall,” “Bleeker Street,” “Blues Run the Game,” the list goes on and on. Now, the set list for the Symphony is more of the hits, but there are so many!  “Homeward Bound,” “Dangling Conversation,” “Mrs Robinson,” “Sounds of Silence,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – it’s endless.

Do audiences have certain expectations and how do you change things up to keep performances fresh?

The shows always feel a little different each time we perform because the audiences are different. We do the hits, of course, but it’s the lesser remembered songs audience members seem to talk about. Many times people will tell us they remembered a song and could sing all the words. Yet it was a song that had been forgotten in their memory. It’s amazing how powerful and timeless the music of Simon and Garfunkel is.

Jonathan Beedle and AJ Swearingen. Photo credit: David Leavitt.

Do you have any special plans for this tour/your Atlanta performance?

We are here for such a short time, it will be difficult to venture out and see the sites. I am bringing my two daughters, Hannah and Chelsea, with me to see the show.  They haven’t seen the show with an orchestra so I’m really looking forward to getting their reaction.

To purchase tickets or for more information, click here.

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