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Miss Tess is a New York City based songwriter and performing musician, who tours regularly with her band, as "Miss Tess & The Bon Ton Parade". In addition to Tess's tasty licks and prowess on her 1940s archtop guitar, the current lineup includes Will Graefe on guitar, Danny Weller on upright bass, and Matt Meyer on drums. Inspired by styles of vintage swing, blues, country, and folk, Miss Tess draws comparisons to artists such as Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Peggy Lee, and Chuck Berry, but maintains a style all of her own. "She’s a musical chameleon, recalling at various moments Tom Waits’ barfly humor, the cabaret-rock of Beirut, or even the wink-wink wit of early Bette Midler." – Holly Hughes, Blog Critics.
Miss Tess has just released “Live Across the Mason Dixon Line”, a true documentation the group's extensive tour history. The album features two live shows – one from the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts and one from Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Georgia. This release proves to be a valiant effort by the band, Miss Tess & The Bon Ton Parade, to blur the lines that once clearly dictated style, genre, and location. Stemming from the truest meaning of the now overused word “Americana”, the band pushes their influences into the current music scene with something totally fresh and soulfully timeless. The skilled musicianship of the quartet combined with Tess’s heartfelt songwriting and powerful stage presence creates a live experience that is more interesting and engaging then most by popular musicians today. It’s quality music you can’t define in one sentence.
Miss Tess first moved from Baltimore and joined the storied roots scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2005, when she formed The Bon Ton Parade, a dynamic, solo-swapping combo, comprised of sax & clarinet, upright bass, brushes on drums, and backing harmonies. The Bon Tons began playing at rootsy hotspots, Club Passim, The Lizard Lounge, and The Plough & Stars. In 2006 they clinched an indefinite Sunday night residency at Toad, a cozy live-music joint off of Mass Ave in Porter Square. In May of 2007, Tess released her first album with her Boston band, entitled Modern Vintage, a term she coined to describe her emerging style of contemporary music strongly infused with the flavors of early jazz and its relatives. The album was recorded at Hi-N-Dry, the studio of Boston legend Mark Sandman, and was produced by Morphine drummer Billy Conway.
2007 also brought When Tomorrow Comes, an album comprised of jazz standards in the vein of Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, alongside two original compositions. Tess was accompanied on this project by a group of six notable DC-based jazz players; Robert Redd on piano, Steve Abshire on guitar, Rusty Mason on sax, John Jensen on trombone, Ralph Gordon on bass, and Steve Larrance on drums. The album’s release party was held at the historic Blues Alley jazz club in Washington D.C., where Tess sang to a sold out Tuesday night crowd.
In 2009, Tess released two albums, the first Live on the Road includes live versions of original songs, as well as covers of a few 30s jazz standards and a Bessie Smith tune. The second 2010 release is Darling, oh Darling, and eclectic mix of original tunes dabbling in styles of western swing, rockabilly, jazz, and blues. Brian Tucker of Bootleg Magazine says "Miss Tess has grace, and the chops, to deliver an album of new material brimming with ‘30’s era jazz and swing or bouncing energy of the 1950’s. Tess sounds transported from decades past without ending up a caricature. She’s sultry, sassy, fun, and all heart. While steeped in the era that spawned Fats Waller or Bessie Smith she’s completely her own voice, capable of stepping outside traditional sounds altogether."
After nationally touring for the last four years, Miss Tess released her sixth album in 2010, The Waltz Set (EP). The album debuts five original waltzes and a waltz cover version of Skeeter Davis' hit song "End of the World" (1962). The compositions are airy and heartfelt descriptions of bicycle rides, ferris wheels, and lost love. Hillary Hughes of Boston's Weekly Dig says "Miss Tess has made a name for herself with her light lilting and lovely crooning. Her most recent effort, The Waltz Set, offers all that audiences have come to love about the petite chanteuse: dreamy notes, vintage lullabies and exceptional musicianship."
Much of Tess’s style stems from her musical upbringing. She was first exposed to music in the womb, while her mother began learning the upright bass. Not long after that Miss Tess was lullabied by the sounds of her father’s Big Band rehearsing in a basement below her bedroom. Large jam parties were a familiar household sound. Tess studied classical piano as a child, and in her teens, began banging out her first few chords on an acoustic guitar. Once in a while, her parents would coax her to croon out a standard like Crazy, or Dream A Little Dream of Me. By her early 20’s, she had fallen in love with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn and her guitar playing took a turn for the better under the tutelage of local jazzer Steve Abshire.
When Tess felt restless, she would hit the road with little else than her guitar. Crashing on couches or roughing it in youth hostels, she tried out her chops in small venues and drew inspiration from the other traveling musicians she would meet. Out on the road, she began writing her own songs, and back in Baltimore, she put together a band of locals to work her hometown scene. In 2005, she laid down her first album of original music. Employing her father on saxophone and clarinet, and her mother on upright bass, she recorded the disc in their own living room and entitled it, Home.
Miss Tess continues to tear up the national roots scene with the Bon Ton Parade. 2011/12 marks a heavy touring schedule for Miss Tess as she tours throughout the US, Canada, the UK, and soaks up life in the Big Apple.