Reviews ClayRossMatuto(SL)

Published on November 7th, 2012 | by Stratton Lawrence


Magic at the Mezz: Clay Ross and Matuto

Clay Ross and Matuto at the Mezz, Nov. 6

Guitarist Clay Ross knows how to hold his audience. Taking the stage for Matuto’s second set around 10 p.m. at the Mezz on Tuesday, he took the time to call every audience member by name from the mic, only having to stop and introduce himself to a few. Granted, the “crowd” was only a small fraction of the folks who had attended the band’s 8 p.m. show, assumedly hurrying home to watch election results come in.

“Does anyone know who our leader is?” Ross asked from stage between songs later in the set. The interplay of his guitar with accordion player Rob Curto’s fast fingering had been so encapsulating of our attention that checking politics on smartphones hadn’t even occurred to us. “Rob?” we guessed from the audience, misunderstanding the question to refer to the band.

Guitarist and bandleader Clay Ross, 2012

Guitarist and bandleader Clay Ross, 2012

Matuto plays as a true democracy. Although Ross may be calling a few shots and handling banter, percussionist Ze Mauricio is certainly the most fun to watch, constantly shifting between an arsenal of shakers and triangles. Matuto’s touring drummer Tim Keiper and bassist Mike Levalle each impeccably complimented the sound while also being worthy of complete attention during key points.

By 11 p.m., the room came alive. Among the 20 or so attendees, local jazz notables like Gerald Gregory, Kevin Hamilton, and Leah Suarez were all smiles in the audience, while Mezz co-owner and acclaimed Charleston drummer Quentin Baxter ran sound.

Even with the white tablecloth atmosphere, the Mezz may prove to be the new spot for live music on King Street. With Cumberland’s long gone, it’s a solid alternative to the more college-oriented bars and corner stages on upper King. The sound quality, for one, was absolutely impeccable — balancing a full drum kit with the sometimes quiet (and sometimes very loud) intonations of an accordion in a small room can be a challenge. In that regard (which is probably the most important), the Mezz is a stage where magic can occur, and every person in the room can distinguish each minute detail.

That was certainly the case with Matuto. Highly danceable yet overwhelmingly intricate, their music forges new ground. It’s rare a thing, indeed, when a band manages to sound like no other group out there, yet still remain entirely accessible.

Clay Ross will host an educational workshop for College of Charleston music students on Wed. Nov. 7 before heading up to Awendaw for the venue’s weekly Barn Jam (they’ll play around 8 p.m.). Ross and Matuto close out their Lowcountry visit with a performance on Kiawah Island on Thurs. Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Seabrook Island House.

Top photo by Stratton Lawrence.

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About the Author

Stratton Lawrence

is a Folly Beach-based freelance writer, editor, and songwriter. He's still trying to figure out the perfect caloric balance between beer consumption and booty shaking when he's on the job covering the local music scene. Find his work at

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