• Elizabeth Gildea

Gillian Kohn’s love of the classic era of jazz and Hollywood began in her youth. Growing up in small-town Hartsville, SC, she always dreamed big, studying closely the black-and-white films she loved and their stars: Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren, Katherine Hepburn, Judy Garland. Involved in her community theater from a young age, she kept an eye toward performing and a hope of traveling to New York City.

This wish was granted when at 17, Kohn’s acting talents earned her an invitation to study at the the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, where she honed her storytelling skills with acting teacher Geoffrey Horne. After graduating high school, she went on to the College of Charleston, where she studied classical voice with soprano Margaret Kelly-Cook; however, finding that classical voice wasn’t her calling, she went back to New York City, where she was accepted at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

The financial difficulty of sustaining life and study in New York, however, led Kohn to travel even further — this time to live and work in London, England and then Sydney, Australia. Kohn describes this as a time of personal growth and confidence-building. Never giving up on her music career, she continued to perform on her days off from work.

In 2003 Kohn returned to the United States. In the following years, she studied communications at Coker College, formed a jazz trio, and moved back to Charleston, where she won the FOX 24 Low Country Idol competition which earned her a trip to Chicago. During this time she also met her husband, and over the next decade her attentions were largely focused on their family and the business they owned together.

However, Kohn has returned to the stage. In 2018 she met jazz guitarist Chris Dodson, when he moved in next door, and together they formed Neighbors Jazz Duo. She has performed at many local venues, has been involved with such high-profile events as Charleston Fashion Week, and is a strong advocate for non-profit organizations like the Charleston Walk for Autism, Surfers Healing, and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Gillian Kohn will be performing at Forte Jazz Lounge on Saturday, October 10th. For tickets, go to https://www.fortejazzlounge.com/events/forte-jazz-trio-7-00pm-11-00pm-6. For more about the artist, visit her website at https://gilliankohn.com.

  • Elizabeth Gildea

Kat Keturah [pronounced ka-CHUR-a] is one of Charleston, South Carolina's leading vocalists, earning her the moniker “Charleston’s Darling of Jazz”. She is also a devoted mother of three, the evening radio personality on gospel radio station Heaven 100.1, and an award-winning author. 

Born in New Hampshire, she began writing music at the age of 14 and recorded her first song that same year. To date, she has written and recorded over 20 original songs.  

Before she was one of Charleston's top singers, she served as a flight medic in the US Air Force.

When Keturah moved to Charleston she was introduced to the overwhelming and powerful influence of southern gospel and the blues. Earthy and full of soul, her voice ranges from soothing and sultry with a poignant depth, to being a true powerhouse sound that is full of grit and growl and will blow you away. Her "combination of a soulful voice and a faithful soul has produced a sound that will touch your heart and stir your memories." 

She has performed as the opening act for Emmy-nominated Julianne Hough and Grammy Award -winner Bill Champlin from the band Chicago. Featured in the Charleston Blues Revue, she was also a regular at two now-closed Charleston jazz venues, The Mezz, and How Art Thou Café, where she performed with the Oscar Rivers Jazz Quartet. She was nominated for Charleston’s Top Female Vocalist in the Charleston City Paper's "Best of Charleston" issue and has competed in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge. Keturah is the lead singer of Deepwater Blues, and leads both a blues and jazz band under her name. 

Kat Keturah will be performing at Forte Jazz Lounge on Friday, October 9th. To hear more of her music, visit https://soundcloud.com/katketurah. To contact the artist, find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KattKeturah.

  • Elizabeth Gildea

Updated: 3 days ago

As he reflects on his career, drummer Ron Wiltrout counts his blessings. “Being able to make a living playing drums within three months of graduating college — I will never take that for granted,” he says. And he has been grateful for the emergence of Forte Jazz Lounge. “Having a dedicated listening space is very hard to come by. ...To have a listening room for jazz is vital to support a vibrant creative community.”

Like so many others, Wiltrout got his start in the middle school band. He attended Goose Creek High school (just outside of Charleston), where he describes having a “really good high school band director… who made sure we knew there was a lot out there to learn, and that if you want to learn something, you kinda become obsessed with it.” His band director recommended that Wiltrout attend workshops in the tricounty area. “That really opened my ears up to really big things,” he says, “because I had professional jazz educators describing in really concrete ways what I was hearing.”

As he grew older, so too did Wiltrout’s fascination with jazz grow. “I was really excited about figuring things out, solving the puzzles,” he remembers. “It seemed like jazz was a good way to kind of get to the fundamentals of everything.” He went on to pursue a jazz degree at University of South Carolina, where he was especially influenced by director of jazz studies Bert Ligon and then- director of percussion studies Jim Hall (now professor emeritus).

Upon graduation, he quickly decided to return to the Charleston area; and he knew he needed to be versatile in order to stay employed. “When I first got out of college, my first gigs were like, playing in a house band, playing everything from straight-ahead jazz to Sade covers. You had to be able to play grooves and backbeats and shuffles. You had to be able to play pretty much everything.” Wiltrout notes that the diversity of the Charleston music scene is part of why he loves it: “Since it’s a small town, you meet everybody pretty quick. Old professionals who’ve been doing it fifty years, people who’ve been doing it five years and everything in between. I could take the rock, the salsa, the jazz — every night playing a different kind of gig.”

Music has taken Wiltrout to New York dozens of times, and as far away as Australia, but his jazz work tends to stay within the region between Charleston and Columbia, SC, and Savannah, GA. (One career highlight was during Spoleto Festival USA, when well-known drummer Eric Harland, then a member of the Charles Lloyd quartet, rented Wiltrout’s drums for a performance.) He has worked with local legends Charlton Singleton and Quentin Baxter, calling Baxter one of his “top five influences of all time and a personal hero.” He has played with the Charleston Latin Jazz Collective, the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, and countless other groups, many of which he has led.

Ron Wiltrout is playing at Forte Jazz Lounge on Wednesday October 28th and Friday October 30th. For more about Ron Wiltrout, visit his website at http://www.ronwiltrout.com.