Atmospheric Jazz Cruise features Quiana Parler and Friends

Quiana Parler has performed on a Piccolo Spoleto Festival Jazz Cruise. (File)

It was a warm, comfortable night at Aquarium Harbor in Charleston. On the boat, the band smiled as they tuned their instruments. A young woman, jacket sparkling and hot pink hair styled in a mohawk, stood in front of a microphone and the night began.

Quiana Parler and Friends played music that dripped with feeling from the heart. The cliche isn't lost on me - it was music that filled the small space of the boat's interior and echoed in my chest; it was music that set shoulders swaying, toes tapping and fingers snapping.

Parler's personality was infectious and her smile lit up the stage more than the purple and gold lights. "I had no idea what I was gonna sing tonight," she laughed. "I'll be honest. I didn't know if you wanted to dance, listen to jazz or just be there."

The band (piano, bass, trumpet, saxophone and guitar) sometimes seemed a bit undisciplined or a little wild, threatening to overwhelm Parler's singing, but never so much that the songs were compromised. The small space likely was a factor.

Joyful solos enhanced the experience, and Parler felt the energy of the crowd (some clapped along, others danced), encouraging more.

The setting had its advantages. Patrons could take a short walk to the deck and enjoy Charleston Harbor and the Ashley River while the music thrummed from the room inside.

The water created a special music of itself. The waves lapped the hull of the boat while a cool wind robbed the evening of its lingering heat. The echoes of the music gave way to a gentler sound, a whisper on the wind.

Jazz can be experienced in many ways, but on the water the music takes on a flavor all its own. The subtle complexities of Parler's voice makes one smile and clap; the boat provides an extra layer of rhythm and atmosphere.

Nicholas Schmiedicker is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.