The arrival of Bernadette Seacrest and her Provocateurs’ reads like a vignette from a 1950s issue of Detective Stories, its pages frayed and marked by the occasional cigarette burn….
First, Dear Reader, we observe the Tattooed Siren as she appears, seemingly out of nowhere, on stages across the Southwest. With her cronies, the Long Goners followed by her Yes Men, she begins the seduction of audiences who have accidentally stumbled into the nocturnal lairs in which she is crooning. The word spreads, nightclubs fill, the press fawns and the legend grows. Next, Europe calls, and it’s a straight shot across the Ocean to Paris and a whirlwind tour of France ensues. Then, suddenly, even as the audiences’ roars are still ringing in her ears, she disappears without a trace or whisper; the proverbial cat melting into the night. As fast as she has appeared, the girl with the Voice and the Look is gone.
Now the scene changes to the other side of the country, the Atlanta of the Deep South. Here we find that Charles Williams, (guitar), and Kris Dale, (bass), have been careening through adventures with their own twists and turns including negotiating the maelstroms of another legendary icon of national repute, Col. Bruce Hampton. Williams played with the infamous Aquarium Rescue Unit featuring Hampton, and now leads the Bonaventure Quartet. Dale is holding down the low end with Col. Hampton’s Quark Alliance. Both regularly log time with a veritable Who’s Who of the Atlanta music scene. Time rolls on.
Then, one night, Williams finds a cryptic note slipped under his door: “I want to sing again. Can you help? B. Seacrest” He calls Dale and says, “we need to talk…”
Yes, Dear Reader, the Sultry One had re-emerged and within a few short months, the Provocateurs are born. Next Bernadette wins the Creative Loafing’s Best New Singer 2007. Williams begins penning new tunes and in late 2009 Bernadette Seacrest and Her Provocateurs present their debut CD, â€˜The Filthy South Sessions,’ a collection of songs that range from the All Mighty’s drinking habits to an epic lament about a Diner at the End of the World with stops in between…
A unique group, these Provocateurs and their Tattooed Siren are, with a lean sparseness distinguishing their sound from most other groups. With one guitar, one bass, and the Voice with the Look, they explore the soft underbelly of that which some call jazz, others may call blues, and still others may perceive as swing noire. It is a world they inhabit easily and decorate with that of their own tastes and beckon you, Dear Listener, to join them….
Charles Williams – Guitar – Songwriter
Charles’ musical path has led him into diverse areas. After being inspired to get a guitar in high school by listening to Jimi Hendrix, he went onto college, ( Emory and GSU), where he studied and received his degree in performance on classical guitar. He played the usual gigs around Atlanta in a variety of groups for several years until he bumped into and started playing with Jimmy Herring, ( The Dead, Widespread Panic ), Otiel Burbridge, ( Allman Bros), and Jeff Sipe, (Phil Lesh, Trey Anastatio) in an instrumental fusion band called Mystificus. Due to an unexpected solar eclipse causing various stars to realign, a resurfacing of an interstate, and uncalibrated fish sandwich, events spun out of his control and conspired to place him as the original guitarist and founding member of the Aquarium Rescue Unit featuring Col. Bruce Hampton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquarium_Rescue_Unit The Rescue Unit has received multitudinous praise as one of the progenitors of the current ‘jam band’ scene.
Always writing a song, he contributed one to each of their two Capricorn releases, the first of which received a five star review in Rolling Stone magazine. For a couple of years both of these were performed regularly on the Tonight Show featuring Jay Leno. As a founding member of the Zambiland Orchestra, which was organized yearly for charity from 1997-2001, he got an opportunity to perform and record with members of the Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic, Phish, and others.
He’s toured with Dennis Edwards of the Temptations, backed up the Platters, played on national commercials for Coke, Turner and other corporate entities. In 2005, Michael Dregni, the world’s foremost authority on Django Reinhardt, reviewed the first two cds of his gypsy jazz group, the Bonaventure Quartet, and called special attention to his songwriting by saying:
“…. it’s Williams’ originals that stand out. Composing the mustic and lyrics to tunes like “The World’s Greatest Lover,” “Blue Rendezvous,” and the eulogy “In Lieu of Flowers,” he proves himself. Instrumentals such as “Tres Ambiance are the icing on the cake.”
—- Michael Dregni, Vintage Guitar, August 2005
As part of his calling as Djangologist, in 2002 Charlie contributed to a radio documentary, “Where is Django Playing” broadcast on WKZE 98.1 New York and Deutschland Radio, Europe.
Charles also has a cd, Venus Has Seen Us, available on the cdbaby.com. It was recorded in 1999 by his band Chateau Debris. It features Joel Morris, the original drummer with Widespread Panic, Mark Bynum of Blueground Undergrass and Col. Bruce and the Fiji Mariners on bass, Jeff Sipe of Susan Tedeschi and ARU on drums on one track, and many others.
Mostly, he just likes making music with interesting people. And when Bernadette called, how could he refuse?
Kris Dale – Bass
Kris began playing piano at age three on the urgings of his mother. After a few successful recitals dressed as superman, he knew performance was where he wanted to be. Switching to trombone in second grade after hearing the “Pink Panther Theme” exposed him to jazz and therefore the seedier side of music.
This path (and the desire to meet women) eventually led to picking up the bass in high school and playing heavy metal and hippie rock. With no other career options available, Kris attended the University of Miami’s School of Music in 1993 and graduated in ’97 with a degree in studio music/jazz performance. Upon returning to his home town of Atlanta, Kris joined the Lost Continentals and toured the U.S. playing swing. Since then he has played with Kingsized, the Johnny Knox Trio, Greasepaint and many other Atlanta favorites.
Highlights of the last few years included opening for Tenacious D on a leg of their tour and backing the one and only Rudy Ray Moore at the Echo Lounge. Currently with Col. Bruce Hampton and the Quark Alliance, Kris also can be seen with Delta Moon, the Bonaventure Quartet, Damian Cartier, Geoff Achison, Matt Wauchope Trio, Bernadette Seacrest and Nick Longo among others.
The pedal steel called to Kris through a creamy yet twangy fog one night and has become part of his musical life with Tongo-hiti, Atlanta’s best Polynesian pop supergroup — a title hard won to be sure. In addition to all of his live gigging, Kris has recorded with with Ben Wakeman, Daath, Adult Swim’s “Squidbillies” and more. Kris continues to build his resume as he travels the nation’s highways, spreading low end love to the masses.
Bernadette Seacrest – Vocalist
“With an approach that’s sassy, sexy and a little sinister, Seacrest conjures a timeless noir world with her voice, inhabiting songs obsessed with shame, lust, anger, fear, booze, murder and betrayal. Coming from her, it all sounds like something worth trying.”
-Mel Minter, Crosswinds Weekly
Bernadette’s creative path reads like the back story to a mid-century Hollywood heroine: Ballerina, Beautician, Hell Kitten, Sultry Chanteuse.
She spent her childhood in California where she studied classical dance with the renowned Los Angeles Ballet and American Ballet Theatre until an injury drove her love of drag and pageantry north east and underground. Coming of age amidst the gutter glam and jewel toned ink of New York’s early 80’s street punk scene the ballerina scraped by as a sometimes fetish model, makeup artist and clothing designer for the iconic clothing/shoe company Nana.
In 1993 Bernadette Seacrest declared Albuquerque home and in 2001 made her musical debut with one of the hottest roots rockabilly bands in the Southwest, the Long Goners. Working closely with Pat Bova, the band’s brilliant singer-songwriter, she belted out rebellious anthems in the style of Janis Martin and Wanda Jackson. They played out for two years, grabbing audiences by the collar and dragging them to their feet with performances that never failed to blow the lid off the ballroom. Bernadette, with the Long Goners, shared the stage with Hank Williams III, Jonathan Richman, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Rockin’ Lloydd Tripp, Al Foul and the Shakes, Tom Walbank and Spo-dee-odee.
2003 found the burgeoning chanteuse ready to wrap her voice around the more complex musical terrain of jazz. She collaborated with acclaimed bassist and composer David Parlato for a year before forming a new band- Bernadette Seacrest and her Yes Men- with bass player/song writer extraordinaire Michael Grimes. The combo’s first album “No More Music by the Suckers” was released in 2004 and features desire drenched jazz standards as well as original songs by Grimes and former band mate Bova. Swing City Magazine wrote that the album was “… not an attempt for a one time rockabilly kitten to break into the modern day jazz scene but an attempt to break the mold, an endeavor she unconsciously accomplishes.” Their second album, “Live in Santa Fe” was released in 2005 and magically captures the smoke filled room acoustics of a sold out live performance.
Bernadette has toured extensively and played to packed audiences across the U.S. and France. She and her Yes Men have been featured on NPR and shared the stage with: Samarabalouf, Mat Firehair & the Imperators of Kool, El Senor Igor, Devil Doll and The Glenn Koster Trio.
In 2006 Bernadette followed her heart to Atlanta where she is currently working on a new project, “Bernadette Seacrest and Her Provocateurs” with guitarist Charles Williams and bassist Kris Dale. The trio recently released an EP premiering several new songs, written by Williams, that infuse Ms Seacrest’s signature dark vintage jazz sound with a deep south hue. The mood remains raw and sparse, allowing each musician’s considerable talent to shine through. Bernadette and her boys are planning a tour this summer so stay tuned for dates and venues!
written by Gwyneth Doland and Tracy Terrill
“The whole affair resembles a hand-cranked big screen romance circa 1930s, in which our heroine-as was often the case during the era-beguiles her male counterpart with sleight of sexual innuendo, the blink of a carefully attended eye and an ever-so-slightly liquor-lubricated melody.”
-Michael Henningsen, Weekly Alibi