- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

They could quit their day jobs. The Satin Doll Trio is that good. But for now, the members of this D.C.-based jazz group — singer Patrice Ferris, husband and bassist Fred Ferris and guitarist Ken Kilpatrick — work on. Though as soon as a world tour comes along, Mr. Kilpatrick jokes, "Were outta there."
By day, they work with computers. Mrs. Ferris is a health care professional, Mr. Ferris an electrical engineer and Mr. Kilpatrick a computer programmer for an insurance company. But as night falls, they bolt from their offices, ditch their workday duds and come together as the Satin Doll Trio.
The trio, named for the Duke Ellington song, "Satin Doll," plays four nights a week in D.C.-area restaurants. (Mr. Ellington was a D.C. native.) To call them throwbacks would be a compliment. They play only "after-hours" jazz, a style made popular in late-night clubs in the 1940s and 1950s. Since their start, four years back, they have played the Kennedy Center and the Corcoran Gallery of Art and have appeared on BET on Jazz, a cable jazz channel.
Each Wednesday, they rehearse at the Ferrises home in Silver Spring. Between gigs and re-hearsals, the trio is "always together," says Mr. Kilpatrick of Rockville, "to the point that I take out the garbage at their place."
Despite their 9 a.m. to midnight hours, the trio wouldnt trade their tough schedule.
"Its actually relaxing, a kind of release," Mrs. Ferris says. "Its a left-brain, right-brain thing."
On a recent Friday night in the lounge of the Ritz-Carlton at Pentagon City, Mrs. Ferris, 36, rushes into the room rich in scandal. (In this room, Monica Lewinsky was recorded by investigators.) Its cocktail hour. She is all dolled up: glasses off and rose-colored lipstick on.
Her ankle-length black dress glitters as she moves. Mr. Ferris, 52, and Mr. Kilpatrick, 48, warm up. Both in black tuxedos, with their dark hair combed back, they look like brothers.
Mrs. Ferris steps to the microphone in front of the group of about 25 tourists and businesspeople. Her voice is confident and smooth, but she seems meek in her dance moves. Mr. Ferris plucks the bass. He is the heart of the group, musically and artistically. He books the shows and speaks for the group. The quietest member off-stage, Mr. Kilpatrick, exudes the most passion on stage. Eyes closed, he taps his foot and slaps his thigh to the beat.
Their songs include lesser-known tunes such as "Moonlight Saving Time" and classics such as "They Cant Take That Away from Me." Mr. Ferris calls them "gems from the period."
Their act avoids improvisations and modern twists. Instead, they strive to recreate songs. Hearing them is like dusting off an old jazz record and listening to the real thing.
"We play it like it was," Mrs. Ferris says. "We try to create the same scene."
Yet the fancy lounges and restaurants they play are a far cry from the smoky, basement bars where "after hours jazz" flourished. They admit the setting has changed, but insist the intimacy with the audience has not. Besides, theres only so much smoke and grime one can take.
"Ken and I were sick of coming home late at night and playing in loud and smoky places," says Mr. Ferris, who played with Mr. Kilpatrick in local rock bands before the trio formed. "We thought maybe if we did this we could get a gig. And next thing you know…"
Next thing you know, theyre at the Ritz-Carlton, where they have been playing for three years.
A hotel lounge is tough to play. A toddler scampers in front of the band. Tourists chat loudly about their latest adventures as they chomp on $11 imported cheeses. Though their attention is divided, most people tap their feet. Some people, such as Michael Aguilar and Pat Harrington, sit mesmerized.
"This is my Friday night. I dont even have to ask for my Kamikaze," says Mr. Aguilar, 47, a software engineer from Alexandria. "Where can you find music like this?" He discovered the trio a year ago and has been a fan ever since.
Mr. Aguilar sits at a tiny table with Miss Harrington, 48, an environmental consultant from Falls Church. The two met last month while watching the trio. Now they are "smitten" with each other, says Mr. Aguilar, gazing at Miss Harrington.
Sipping a coffee, Miss Harrington appreciates the mellow atmosphere. The light from a candle flickers on her face.
"Its great to come and relax," Miss Harrington says. "Its hard to find a place like this, at least for the 35-plus crowd."
The Satin Doll Trio is not trying to attract a crowd with modernized music. Yet there is one thing they do try to borrow from modern bands: energy.
"We take old songs and play with it the same energy as a group like Limp Bizkit," Mr. Ferris says. "Well," he rethinks the comparison with the popular, foul-mouthed rockers. "Maybe not Limp Bizkit."
"No, definitely, not Limp Bizkit," his wife says.
Some music is best left un-touched. And thats just the way the Satin Doll Trio likes to play it.

The trio appears at Felix in the District on Monday nights and at Laportas in Alexandria on Thursdays. Friday and Saturday nights, the group is at the Ritz-Carlton lounge in Pentagon City. For performance details, call 301/588-3504 or visit www.satindolltrio.com.

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