Stellanovas Band Review at Art Street in Green Bay, Wisc. (August 29, 2009)

The Stellanovas Oh Art Street, how I long for you year after year. I would have stayed if the sky would not have cried when The Stellanovas gave their "two songs left" warning. The Stellanovas are a unique jazz duo from Madison, and today they are playing as a trio with Green Bay session drummer Todd Steward, a long time friend and seasoned musician they jammed with for many years in Madison. The family and I strolled up to the stage to hear the soothing sounds of this mellow cool swing jazz on this cloudy afternoon. Chris Wagoner and Mary Gaines gather their inspiration from a number of jazz artists like Wes Montgomery and Chet Baker but the main inspiration of their music is from being married for over 20 years. The experience gained in the musical conversations over the many years since Chris and Mary met at the University of Wisconsin shows effortlessly on stage. Chris and Mary use a multitude of instruments to create the sound that is The Stellanovas. Chris is primarily on the electric violin and Mary on the cello. Ok, so you are probably wondering how this combination can even come close to sounding like swing or even jazz for that matter. Well it's not too far of a stretch when you see Mary playing the cello like an upright bass, then take Chris and his electric violin adding melodic tones and you have this mystical like gypsy jazz sound being played to a swing rhythm. Toss in Todd Steward on drums stirring it up with the brushes or sticks while hanging it back on the triplets and there you have it, some mellow cool swing jazz.

The Stellanovas The unique blend of instruments they choose and eccentric swing percussion makes this laid back music really exciting to watch and listen to. Ever hear an electric violin going through a waw waw pedal? While playing with the dynamics of volume and tone The Stellanovas are constantly putting each other out on a string for a solo and it's like watching an acrobat crossing a high wire, very entertaining. Chris switches from a number of instruments from violin to uke, to mandolin, to accordion, to Hawaiian guitar, and finally to acoustic guitar. His vocals are smooth and his range is medium to high. Where Chris adds the smooth, Mary adds the soul handling the bass clef. While Mary's skill on the cello is masterful she is also a multi instrument musician, switching to other instruments like piccolo bass, guitar, and baritone uke.

The Stellanovas The Stellanovas Mary's vocals are soulful, deep, rich, and blend perfectly with Chris's. Todd Steward's drums fit right in with his sweeping brush patterns and rhythmic syncopation, the sizzling riveted ride is a nice touch as well. The Stellanovas take you through a journey of sweet melodies and swing rhythms and leave you with a nice European cafe feeling that can only be best accompanied by a nice espresso macchiato and Gitanes. Even though the weather was less than pleasant The Stellanovas were a perfect fit for the afternoon. The mood was light while the patrons perused the many art and food vendors. Art Street is one of the many things that make Green Bay great and every year it is getting bigger and better. I just hope Mother Nature shows a little more appreciation next year and keeps her tears to herself when the music stops playing. The Stellanovas are coming back to Green Bay on Sept 12 playing at The Attic Books and Coffee. The Stellanovas are a must see and they have been featured on Wisconsin public television's 30 Minute Music Hour; you can catch the entire episode on their website. Chris and Mary also host a music show in Madison called "Mad Toast Live" via free Pod cast on itunes. You got to check them out!

September 3, 2009
Originally posted on