Saxophonist Kevin Patton, like many of his peers, got his start with his instrument in his middle school band. But his first musical experience was in choir in church. His spirituality would remain a strong influence on his musical life for many years to come. “Growing up in church, that’s really influenced my sound and my style,” says Patton. “You can hear that little gospel twang in my playing across the board.” But, he notes, “we’re really influenced by everything around us to some degree.”
Patton lists among his influences saxophone legends John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon. But just as important have been his personal mentors. A 2014 graduate of the College of Charleston, Patton remembers one jazz mentor in particular: “My personal saxophone professor was Robert Lewis — he’s now the conductor and music director of the Charleston Jazz orchestra. Studying with him has allowed me to grow in with the culture of the city and easily transition into professional music in Charleston.”
Many College of Charleston graduates have spoken of the valuable performance opportunities available to young musicians building their careers. “The city is the campus and the campus is the city,” observes Patton. “It’s very very integrated with the city, you can be walking down the street and pass by one of the buildings and not even know it. Having that situation where your professors are also the biggest players in town, your professors are also composing for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra… It can be kind of awkward, especially with the professors that are kind of strict in the classroom, but when you actually play with them… Once you get to a certain level there’s certain things you can let fly, and we have the freedom to bend if you actually know what’s going on.”
Patton has played at such major events as Piccolo Spoleto, the Savannah Black Heritage Festival and the Atlanta Heritage Music Festival. One of his crowning achievements has been the album he released in summer 2015 with fellow College of Charleston graduates Demetrius Doctor, Brett Belanger and Brandon Brooks. In addition to private lessons, Patton substitute teaches at the Allegro Charter School of Music. Since the pandemic began he has been producing an online series titled “Music In Charleston”, in which he records music at iconic local settings such as Marion Square and the Gibbes Museum of Art.
Speaking of the effect of social distancing restrictions on local businesses, Patton says, “I’m glad Joe [Clarke] has been able to create Forte and keep it going. Big credit to him for being able to weather the storm. …I can see Forte blossoming into one of the man jazz spots not just for to Charleston but for all of South Carolina.”
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.
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.