Harmonius Wail arrives with its bouncy rhythms

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Oct 01, 2004 - Page 15

The bouncy rhythm, the delicate music arrangement and good musicianship have made Harmonious Wail, one of the few outstanding bands that combines Eastern European folk songs and American jazz music.

For those who missed their first Taiwan concert in Chiayi yesterday, try to catch up with one of the six other concerts during their Taiwan tour.

Their upcoming gigs are Oct 1 in Yuanlin, Changhua county, Oct 3 in Taipei's National Concert Hall, Oct 5 in Taichung, Oct 6 in Chungli, Taoyuan county, Oct 7 in Kaohsiung and Oct 8 in Hsinchu.

Established in 1987, Harmonious Wail inlcudes mandolin, acoustic guitar, double bass, occasional fiddler and a female vocal. Its music owes a debt to musicians such as Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, and David Grisman.

Harmonious Wail founder and leader Sims Delaney-Potthoff said, "It's Jethro Burns' fault," when asked about the style of the band's mandolin-heavy gypsy-jazz.

For seven years, Sims studied with Burns, the legendary jazz mandolinist, laying the foundation for Harmonious Wail's acoustic string sound. He studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music, honing his skills while immersing himself in "gypsy" music.

Vocalist Maggie Delaney-Potthoff is a captivating performer. Equally at home scat-singing over a bebop tune, soaring on a solo, or blending with Wail's tight vocal harmonies, she delivers both powerhouse tunes and ballads with confidence and ease. Her well-received tunes include I'm always Chasing Rainbows, After You've Gone.

As a strings-based band, the guitarist Tom Waselchuk and bassist John Mesoloras are vital to the band's music. Waselchuck has performed with and led jazz groups such as Full Count Jazz Band, Wholly Cats, and played folk and blues and western swing.

Mesoloras has a powerful, rock steady and energetic stand-up bass playing style and is a perfect match for Sims Delaney-Potthoff's mandolin. Together, the band has a unique aura that brings the audience back to the scene of Paris jazz clubs of the 1930s.