Singer-songwriter Abigail Cosio and her future husband, saxophonist Jeremy Kelley, moved to New Orleans a decade ago from Los Angeles. In 2013, they formed their gypsy-jazz band, Bon Bon Vivant. The band plays local festivals and tours the nation. It’s released two full-length albums, 2016’s Paint & Pageantry and this year’s Live at the New Orleans Jazz Museum. A third album is due in May.
Bon Bon Vivant came together soon after Cosio and Kelley provided music for a New Orleans Fringe Festival appearance by drag performer Vinsantos Defonte. Because the couple had so much fun playing that show, they recorded the songs Cosio wrote for it. The material filled Bon Bon Vivant’s debut recording, 2014’s Evangeline.
“Myself and the rest of the boys in the band had been playing jazz around town,” Kelley recalled. “But when Abigail started writing a lot of songs, we learned them and the band got busier and busier. It’s taken over our lives in a way we didn’t expect.”
Cosio’s and Kelley’s choice to play gypsy jazz—a European style of jazz identified with guitarist Django Reinhardt’s and violinist Stéphane Grappelli’s Quintet of the Hot Club of France—came naturally. “Abigail and I are both into that minor-key swing sound,” Kelley said. “The dark energy in gypsy jazz fascinates us.”
Cosio often writes songs in minor keys. “Minor keys lend themselves to interesting topics,” she said. “As a lyricist, I’m drawn to darker songs that have conflict in the storylines.”
Kelley’s wish to live in a city that loves music inspired the couple’s move to New Orleans. “I came for the jazz,” he said. “Being a saxophone player, I was disillusioned by the lack of soul in Los Angeles at the time.”
During a pre-move visit to New Orleans in 2004, the city worked its charm on Kelley. “It felt like home,” he said. “Music is a lifestyle here, instead of music for fame or fortune or business. There are a lot of blue-collar, working musicians raising their children here by playing the clarinet and trumpet. I came here because I wanted to play saxophone in New Orleans.”
Cosio agreed to the change of residence. “It seemed like the right move, to come to a place that embraces music in a different way than any other city in the world,” she said.
In addition to Kelley’s and Cosio’s move to New Orleans, Cosio’s singing sister, Glori, relocated to the city, too. “My sister and I were always drawn to the Boswell Sisters and the Andrews Sisters and the intricate harmonies they sang. So, it’s such a fit for me, to be the songwriter who writes a melody that Glori instinctually sings harmony to.”
Friday, April 13, 11a
WWL-TV Esplanade in the Shade Stage (U.S. Mint)