by Len Lear
Think it’s easy to make a living as a full-time musician if you are not a household name? Not bloody likely. For example, let’s take a look at the six members of Parlour Noir, an outstanding Mt. Airy-based jazz band that has been gaining traction in Philly and beyond and which will be playing Paris Bistro on Sunday, March 22, 6-10 p.m.
For example, Adam Darer, 30, of Germantown, spokesman for the band, plays about 6 to 10 shows a month with Parlour Noir but also teaches private piano lessons to students of all ages in his studio in addition to being a science teacher at an elementary school.
Paul Salter, 50, of Mt. Airy, is a lawyer and swing dance instructor in addition to playing with Parlour Noir. Marco Del Destino, 51, who has lived in the Chestnut Hill area for over 20 years, including Wyndmoor, Mt. Airy and Oreland, is an administrative coordinator for the Merck Pharmaceutical Company.
Zak Kneeland, 30, of Blue Bell, another band member, is the office manager at a local law firm. Timothy Hill, 47, of Mt. Airy, is a part-time contractor and part-time stay-at-home dad in addition to his musical exploits, and “Doghouse” Dave Young, 40, of Media, is a music teacher and owner of Widget Studios, a production company which records and films musicians.
Parlour Noir, which plays swinging jazz from the “Roaring ’20s” and 1930s for audiences who often dress up in vintage clothing, came together in September of 2017 out of jam sessions in the historic 19th century Mt. Airy “Circus Mansion,” part of the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.
“The band was formed when I heard Salter’s band, Bitters and Rye, at a swing dance and started a jam session after the main show,” said Adam, who then played a few jazz tunes on piano, Paul, who says his musical heroes are Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Eddie Lang, joined in on clarinet, and the remaining guests started dancing again.
Seeing a chance to form a swing band, Paul invited Adam to the Circus Mansion to play again. A short time later, Paul brought in Del Destino, a friend, talented drummer and member of the band Dibbs and the Detonators Del Destino averages between 80 and 100 musical performances per year.
Salter, Darer and Del Destino first performed that fall as Parlour Noir at a swing dance house party in Mt. Airy. Kneeland, a mutual friend and swing dancer, was there. He immediately asked to join the band, even if he had to “learn to play the kazoo.”
“I suggested that Zak learn the banjo instead and gave him a few tunes to practice,” said Paul. “Zak successfully played the songs a few weeks later. The following month, he received a large book of music to learn. And just like that, Parlour Noir was formed.” (The name comes from the Circus Mansion’s ovular parlour, where practices are held.)
Combining vocals, horns, piano, banjo, drums, cornet and upright bass, Parlour Noir swings hard through a repertoire of jazz standards, including a handful of original tunes created specifically for the dance floor. Although Parlour Noir started out as a jazz jam, it has quickly become in its third year one of Philadelphia’s in-demand swing bands for restaurants, dances, weddings, parties and more.
The band’s musical adventures have taken it to performances at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D.C., 38 Parlour in New York City, the battleship USS New Jersey across the Delaware River in Camden, the Franklin Institute and the Fillmore Philadelphia.
They’ve also played everything from intimate coffee shops (Germantown Expresso Bar) to restaurants (19 Bella, The Lucky Well Ambler, The Twisted Tail, Dawson Street Pub, et al) to breweries (Attic Brewing Company) to jazz clubs (Paris Bistro) to large swing dances, performing arts centers (Hopewell Theater) and large private event venues. A list of their venue highlights can be found at https://parlournoirjazz.com/shows.
They’ve gathered some amusing stories along the way. During an audition at Parx Casino, for example, Adam and Zak misheard a song name and played another song, and Paul made up lyrics to match the chord structure. The band also had to think fast when the bass player’s van broke down on the way to a show in Lancaster. It took a NASCAR style roadside pit-stop to transfer the upright bass, tuba and the rest of the gear from the van to everyone’s cars. The band made it to the show with just minutes to spare.
For more information, visit Parlournoirjazz.com or parisbistro.net