Parlor Tricks is the world's first and foremost industrial ragtime band, a hot-music quartet led with sultry vocals, resonator guitar, upright bass and horn or drums. The music is swing and jazz standards, vaudeville, and bluesy originals -- all distinguished by syncopation and stomp.
We call our music "industrial ragtime" because we approach the music of the last century through our own high-energy lens. We are often booked for Speakeasy, Steampunk, and other creative events. Everything we do is firmly under the flag of great entertainment -- lead by our engaging and beautiful lead singer. The fun and excitement of this music is infectious.
.It's vaudevillian in its delivery, dark and soaring at once
Through subtle power of suggestion and sleight of hand Parlor Tricks has remained a musical lightening rod for more than a century.
Originally founded in 1904 by the Kalamata sisters, Ernestine and Bertrude, who deserted the family vaudeville act to pursue their more bawdy musical aspirations. The act floundered until the sisters recruited bassoon virtuoso Boris Matzatoff to arrange their hit Edison cylinder phonograph recording of “Muffins on Sunday,” featuring Bertie’s now famous flugelhorn solo. Accompanying sheet music sales set the band on the path that it has followed, with occasional personnel changes, to the present day.
Parlor Tricks achieved a new measure of press and popular notice in the summer of 1922 while performing as the house band at Oheka Castle, the Long Island estate better know as the luxurious abode described in The Great Gatsby.
In 2008 Parlor Tricks relocated to San Francisco from New York, inspired by a promise issued by the then 102 year-old Matzatoff of rich audience, ample appreciation, and much improved sushi.
The relocation of Parlor Tricks brought this reaction from the editors of Catfish Musicology Monograph and Journal of Good Sense and Trusted Opinion,
This move breathes new life into a musical act that has survived on great singing, fine songs and scintillating banter for longer than anyone cares to remember.
“I remember,” says Matzatoff.
Choice antidote of Heads of State, esteemed dignitaries and the generally discerning and astute; those who through patronage or reputation have come to know the potent mellifluence, Melodious Contentment, and harmonious Effect of syncopation and stomp.
In late 1917, after years of exhaustive continental touring, the sisters Ernestine and Bertrude Kalamata pooled their earnings to purchase a small chateau in the Hudson River hamlet of Dobbs Ferry. There they retired from live performance, set their stage animals free, and focused their energies on recording for the growing gramophone market. This was to become one of the band’s most creative and productive periods in decades.
Boris Matzatoff, whose short-lived solo bassoon career heralded the end of that instrument’s aspirations of securing a central place in popular song, soon re-joined the sisters. Parlor Tricks recordings over this period brought a wealth of critical, but tenuous financial, success. Though initially slow to adopt to prevailing Edwardian ways, experimented with ever increasingly racy material and stagecraft.
With the passing decades the sisters handed the ever burning Parlor Tricks torch to successors, anointing each through bizarre vaudevillian ritual, requiring of successors near perfect posture and diction, and passing knowledge of the group’s now enormous back catalogue.
In 2008 the band released its eponymous EP, the first Parlor Tricks recording in nearly a century, on the Garagista Music label. Band members, in what is now known to scholars as the Parlor Tricks “East” period, were Melina Selverston on vocals, Eddie Scher on resonator guitar, David Hartheimer on bass, and Doug Epstein on box, clarinet, and all manner of sound and sound production.
In 2011, Parlor Tricks released Was I Drunk? …and other love songs on the newly reformed Industrial Ragtime Records. A red hot version of “Was I?” kicks off the recording—a cover of Dorthy Dunn’s 1931 Ziegfield Follies runaway smash—with smoldering, seductive vocals and smoking improvisational flights from the band. The balance of the songs are originals, featuring Melina’s sweet and supple voice, Eddie’s National Style 1 guitar, plus ukulele and banjo, the deep double bassaloon of Jeff Bruner, and extraordinary snap and crackle tympany of Jason Berkman.
In 2016 Parlor Tricks announced its latest recording Love You to Pieces. The Industrial Ragtime Records release contains 12 new songs from the bands deep century catalog, including Some of these Days, performed as homage to the singular Last of the Red Hot Momas -- Sophie Tucker.