Tea Cup Gin hails from North Carolina, with members who’ve also lived and played in the musical meccas of Chicago, NYC, New Orleans, Savannah, Nashville, and Washington DC. The members of Tea Cup Gin share a passion for crafting original indie-jazz cocktails under the influence of an eclectic blend of early 20th century musical genres (20s-40s jazz standards, tin pan alley, ragtime, delta blues, torch, chanson, cabaret, bossa, tango, & show tunes). The band stirs together unique melodies and lyrics, served up on two blazing acoustic guitars, with impassioned vocals, dynamic upright bass & percussion, and occasional guests on trombone, trumpet, violin, sax, & more.
Why the name “Tea Cup Gin”? During prohibition, speakeasies served bootleg gin in ordinary tea cups to hide what was inside. Although the band’s original songs may look innocent enough on the outside, you’ll soon taste a deliciously intoxicating blend of unexpected ingredients. “Tea Cup Gin” evokes vintage jazz, while being catchier than saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
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John Klonowski – After growing up in Chicago immersed in the blues, JohnK listened to a recording of the Rev Gary Davis’ “Ragtime Guitar”, and set off on an odyssey to learn how to play ragtime and jazz fingerstyle guitar. JK’s solo performances often blend in intricate ragtime and jazz instrumentals from composers such as Scott Joplin, Louis Chauvin, Fats Waller, and Jelly Roll Morton.
Christy Benson – Inherited a passion for vintage jazz and blues from her late father, who worked as a radio DJ during the 1940s when he began amassing a huge collection of 78 rpm records and LPs (ranging from Brownie McGhee and Bessie Smith to Big Bands, Ethel Waters, Kurt Weill, Pete Seeger, Peggy Lee, Ellington, Monk, Mercer, Miles, & so many more). Christy has performed with various acts in North Carolina, Georgia, and Washington DC, including as a longtime backing vocalist with Dexter Romweber and The New Romans.
Mike Reid – Mike toured internationally as the lead guitar player for famed folk rock artist Tim Hardin, as well as fronting his own bands. Mike has also performed at numerous Jazz festivals, including the Montreux Jazz Festival and New Orleans Jazzfest, and has also recorded extensively as a studio musician in NYC, Nashville, and New Orleans with various artists including Mick Fleetwood.
Mark Robertson – Mark is an accomplished percussionist and music teacher who has gigged with numerous bands encompassing rock, jazz, latin rhythms, and more. He is also an inspirational music teacher, with over 37 years experience in teaching band and general music in schools in NC and Ohio with numerous awards and acclamations to his credit. He holds an Undergraduate Degree from Miami University of Ohio, Master’s Degree in Music Education from Kent State University, and currently teaches at The Expedition School in Hillsborough NC.
Special Thanks to the outstanding cast of supremely talented musicians who have frequently accompanied TEA CUP GIN at live performances and on recordings, including:
- Upright Bass: The Marvelous Ms. JANE FRANCIS (aka “Sweet Jane”) (Current), as well as Gene Barrio, Ittai Korman, Doug Vuncannon, Mike Maloney, Don Raleigh, & Nigel Clarke
- Percussion: Larry Duckworth, Aaron Tucker, Slimbo McElroy, Isaiah Simpson, Rob DiMauro
- Special Guests Have Included: Danny Grewen (trombone), Omar Ruiz Lopez (violin), Robert Griffin (Piano), Robo Jones (trombone), David Kreimer (sax) & Many More!
“Tea Cup Gin’s debut album Underground Love is a glorious crossroads of jazz noir, tin pan, and furious fingerstyle blues, fueled by impassioned vocals, with a dash of latin rhythm to spice up the mix!” – Feature in Relix Magazine & Jambands.com (April/May 2015 Issue)
“Tea Cup Gin has has found a niche playing their hybrid form of gypsy swing and hot jazz by integrating sultry jazz vocals into a smoking rhythm section, while maintaining all the integrity this music requires. Tea Cup Gin has its roots firmly grounded in the gypsy swing tradition. Not only can they execute the songs successfully, they come across as a band that is having a blast doing it, and it shows in the music!” — James Nadal, Review Published in All About Jazz Magazine
“Tea Cup Gin did a fabulous job entertaining a sellout crowd of 6,000 runners at the Tar Heel 10 Miler race in Chapel Hill.” – Endurance Magazine & Chapel Hill Weekly (May 01, 2014)
“Tea Cup Gin performed at a large Market Mixer event that my company planned and hosted for The Knot.com. They were friendly, professional and wonderful to work with! Throughout the entire planning process, Tea Cup Gin was so enthusiastic about performing and were incredibly easy to work with. I would highly recommend them!” – Nancy Mazzuco, Owner, “I Do” Event Planning, at TheKnot.com
“Tea Cup Gin is releasing its first album – Underground Love – and they’re doing it in style! Some bands just release a CD, but they have a Circus! ” – Aaron Keck, WCHL/Chapelboro (Sep 12, 2014)
“Tea Cup Gin was simply fabulous!” ~ Chapelboro News coverage and photos of Hillsborough Hog Days Festival – SP Murray, Chapelboro.com and WCHL (May 18, 2013)
Following and Bookings
Tea Cup Gin has a strong live, online, and social media presence, including being ranked #1 in the region and in the Top 10 globally on the Reverbnation.com official “Jazz” charts every month for more than two years running.
CLICK HERE for demographic data on the size and scope of our online fanbase.
We play several shows a month at a wide array of festivals, venues, clubs, events, hotels, and restaurants, plus private functions and events, here are just some of them:
- North Carolina Museum of Art – Raleigh
- Koka Booth Amphitheater – Cary
- Beyu Caffe – Durham
- Cat’s Cradle – Chapel Hill
- Carolina Inn – Chapel Hill
- Motorco Music Hall – Durham
- Town of Chapel Hill’s “Festifall”
- Haw River Ballroom
- Shakori Hills Festival of Music & Arts
- NC Hops & Roots Festival
- Downtown Durham “Find Your Cool” Music Series
- Town of Garner Music Series
- Town of Cary Summer Music Series
- Eno River Festival
- The Blue Note Grill
- Durham Arts Guild
- Franklin Hotel – Chapel Hill
- Tarheel “Ten Miler” & Ramblin’ Rose Races
- Apex Music Festival
- Centerfest – Durham
- Elderberry Festival – Carrboro
- 140 West Plaza Outdoor Concert Series – Chapel Hill
- Hog Day Festival – Hillsborough
- Ackland Art Museum – Chapel Hill
- Carrboro Music Festival
- Sola Café – Raleigh
- Lafayette Village – Raleigh (Outdoor Concert Series)
- Vinos Finos – Raleigh
- The Station – Carrboro
- Carrboro Farmers Market
- Dancing With the Stars Carolina
- Deep South The Bar – Raleigh
- Full Steam Brewery – Durham
- Honeysuckle Tea House – Chapel Hill
- Local 506 Music Club – Chapel Hill
- The Cave Music Club – Chapel Hill
- Irregardless Café – Raleigh
- UnVined Wine Bar – Cary
- 2nd Wind Music Club – Carrboro
- The Pour House – Raleigh
- Common 414 Speakeasy Downtown – Raleigh
- West End Wine Bar – Durham & Chapel Hill
- The Pinhook – Durham
- “TASTE: The Event”
- Numerous Private Events, Corporate Events, Weddings
- MANY MORE!