Sims Delaney-Potthoff, Harmonious Wail’s founder, leader and mandolinist , credits Jethro Burns with the band’s unique, enticing style of mandolin-driven gypsy-jazz. Sims studied for seven years with Burns, the legendary jazz mandolinist, laying the foundation for Harmonious Wail’s acoustic string sound. He furthered his studies with Matt Glaser at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, honing his skills while immersing himself in the “gypsy” music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli (Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bireli Lagrene, Duane Allman, David Grisman, and Louis Armstrong are also on his list of musical heroes). Sims also plays a 1937 Gibson Tenor Guitar (tuned as an octave mandolin), sings, writes and arranges for the Wail. He founded the group in 1987.
Vocalist Maggie Delaney-Potthoff is a captivating performer. Equally at home scatting over a bebop tune, soaring on a solo, or blending with the Wail’s tight vocal harmonies, she delivers both powerhouse tunes and ballads with confidence and ease. Her sensual, sinuous movements (a product of her background in dance and theatre) and her use of a cardboard box played with brushes as a drum add to the charm she exudes onstage.
Jeff Weiss, recent graduate of UW-Madison’s School of Music, is already a master bassist with dazzling artistic prowess. Awarded the 2012 Madison Area Music Award for best bassist of the year, Jeff brings to the Wail a mesmerizing technical facility on the fretboard, a sophisticated and versatile style, and a powerful ability to create musical ambiance and rapport. Jeff studied under Richard Davis for five years and was principle bassist for UW-Madison’s Symphony Orchestra. Jeff’s music reflects a broad application of classical and jazz influences.