Roots musician Miss Tess, as she’s known, traces her style back to her musical upbringing in Baltimore, Md.
Miss Tess was first exposed to music in the womb, while her mother began learning the upright bass. Not long after that, she was lulled to sleep by the sounds of her father’s big band rehearsing in a basement below her bedroom. Large jam parties were a familiar household sound.
Miss 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 20s, Miss Tess 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 Miss 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 aptly titled it, “Home.”
Miss Tess moved from Baltimore and joined the storied roots scene in Cambridge, Mass., in 2005, when she formed The Bon Ton Parade, a dynamic, solo-swapping combo featuring saxophone and 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 and Stars. In 2006, the band clinched an indefinite Sunday night residency at Toad, a cozy live-music joint off of Mass Avenue in Porter Square.
And then in May of 2007, Miss Tess released her first album with her Boston band, titled “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.
Today, Miss Tess is a New York City-based songwriter and performing musician who tours regularly with her band as Miss Tess and The Bon Ton Parade. In addition to Miss Tess, the band features Will Graefe on guitar, Danny Weller on upright bass, Raphael Mc-Gregor on lap steel and Matt Meyer on drums.
Miss Tess and The Bon Ton Parade will travel to Bristol for a gig Thursday night, Jan. 19 at Machiavelli’s. Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $5 for the concert or $20 for dinner and the music.
Having just released “Live Across the Mason Dixon Line,” Miss Tess is inspired by styles of vintage swing, blues, country and folk, and draws comparisons to artists such as Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Peggy Lee and Chuck Berry, but maintains a style all her own.
The new album is a true documentation of the group’s extensive tour history and features two live shows — one from the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, Mass., and one from Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, Ga.
Miss Tess will continue to tour with The Bon Ton Parade this year, making stops throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
For more information on Miss Tess and The Bon Ton Parade, visit misstessmusic.com .