Hot Club Of Detroit
Led by guitarist Evan Perri, the Hot Club of Detroit are among the 21st century groups that have been updating the Gypsy swing style popularized by the seminal Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt -- who was only 43 when he died of a brain hemorrhage on May 16, 1953 but continued to influence a long list of disciples more than half a century after his death. Some Gypsy jazz artists of the 21st century are purists who go out of their way to emulate Reinhardt's classic recordings of the '30s and '40s, while others favor a more expansive approach and combine their love of Reinhardt's legacy with a lot of post-Reinhardt influences; Perri's Hot Club of Detroit clearly fall into the latter category. The Hot Club of Detroit have included many of Reinhardt's compositions in their repertoire along with songs that weren't written by Reinhardt but came from his era, such as Jelly Roll Morton's "Sweet Substitute" and Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose." However, Perri's combo has also recorded plenty of songs that were written long after Reinhardt's death, ranging from Miles Davis and Victor Feldman's "Seven Steps to Happen" and Wes Montgomery's "Leila" to Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova standard "How Insensitive," aka "Insensatez." The Hot Club of Detroit have even included a surprisingly uptempo arrangement of the theme from The Godfather in their repertoire. Perri was born on June 12, 1979 in Detroit and grew up not far away in Grosse Pointe, MI, where he began studying the piano at the age of four and played electric bass as a teenager in some local punk bands before making the guitar his main instrument. Perri, whose father was a jazz guitarist, became a big fan of Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, and other bop and/or post-bop guitarists, but it wasn't until he moved to Minnesota to attend the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul that Perri got into Gypsy swing. The person who turned Perri on to the music of Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli was the late guitarist Mike Elliott, who had studied with bop guitar icon Johnny Smith. Perri's attraction to Gypsy jazz became so strong that he ended up making it his main focus. After moving back to Michigan, Perri formed the Hot Club of Detroit in 2003. The group's self-titled debut album was released by Mack Avenue in 2006, when Perri was overseeing a lineup that also included guitarists Colton Weatherston and Paul Brady, clarinetist Dave Bennett, acoustic bassist Shannon Wade, and accordionist Julien Labro -- and unlike Reinhardt's Hot Club of France Quintet, the Hot Club of Detroit didn't include a violin. Weatherston and Bennett left the Hot Club of Detroit after their first album, but it was Bennett's departure that did the most to alter their sound; Bennett was replaced by tenor and soprano saxophonist Carl Cafagna, whose solos made the bop and post-bop elements in their performances even more prominent. Mack Avenue released the Hot Club of Detroit's third album, It's About That Time, in 2010. In 2012, the group returned with Junction, featuring saxophonist Jon Irabagon and vocalist Cyrille Aimée. ~ Alex Henderson
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Jazz - Released July 15, 2008 | Mack Avenue Records
On Night Town, the Hot Club of Detroit's sophomore effort for Mack Avenue Records, there is a sound that offers pure delight for jazz lovers and, by the same token, one of dread for the Gypsy jazz purist. That sound begins at the two-second mark of the opening cut on this excellent set. The tune is the old standard "I Want to Be Happy," and this version of it was inspired not by Django Reinhardt, but by a recording of Stan Getz playing with the Oscar Peterson Trio. It is the sound of a tenor saxophone (played by Carl Cafagna) evoking a momentary post-bop line and moving in a very straight path from here to there, accompanied by Julien Labro's button accordion, Shannon Wade's upright bass, and the guitars of Evan Perri and Paul Brady. The tune moves in short order from fleeting post-bop into the center of the action where it becomes a breezy, tough, but celebratory hybrid of Gypsy swing, French chanson, and bop. It is a startling, even breathless, even heady way to open an album, but through 15 tracks, despite the mood changes, tempo shifts, dynamic ranges, and advanced harmonic palette, the Hot Club of Detroit never let up. Of course, this Hot Club is not now, nor has it ever been, a purist group. The band's interest in Reinhardt and his burning, exuberant Gypsy brand of swinging jazz has always been serious, but mere revivalism is not the aim. These cats are jazz musicians first and foremost and the music they make, whether directly written or previously recorded by him or not, is filtered through their collective ability as jazzmen -- in arrangement, tempo, harmony, and yes, swing. After all, the word Detroit is in their name. In addition to "I Want to Be Happy," there is a highly original reading of Miles Davis' classic "Seven Steps to Heaven," with the front line led by Labro's accordion and Cafagna's tenor. Wade's bassline pace is breezy and taut, the way Perri and Brady interact with the front-line soloists is startling, and the way Cafagna's hard bopping knotty solo touches on Sonny Rollins via Coleman Hawkins is brilliant. The underscoring of Miles' manner of using an Eastern mode in the theme is a nice touch to boot. For those who like their Gypsy swing a little closer to home, that's here in spades in Reinhardt's "Valse a Rosenthal," "Speevy," and the single "Django's Monkey," but everything here is worthwhile -- whoever heard of a swing reading of Gene "Jug" Ammons and Sonny Stitt's "Blues Up and Down" or a backwards evocation of New Orleans via the European swing era and hard bop as exists in this version of Jelly Roll Morton's "Sweet Substitute"? Right, nowhere but here. The originals are also worth noting (and one wishes they weren't placed so near the back end of the album) because of their lyrical sophistication. The gorgeous "Two Weeks," by Perri and Labro, is especially notable for its seamless union of samba and late-era swing. Another is Perri's title track, which begins as a contemplative, breezy, nearly West Coast simmering jazz number -- again thanks to Cafagna's saxophone, which crisscrosses into and out of flamenco and Latin jazz terrain even as it invokes Reinhardt's spirit of adventure and craftsmanship. This is an excellent second chapter for the Hot Club of Detroit, and one that advances their unique voice further than their debut. ~ Thom Jurek
Jazz - Released April 27, 2010 | Mack Avenue Records
While the Hot Club of Detroit has been influenced by the gypsy jazz of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, this quintet is a bit different in its makeup, with guitarist Evan Perri, accordionist Julien Labro, multi-reed player Carl Cafagna, rhythm guitarist Paul Brady, and bassist Andrew Kratzat. Earlier CDs focused primarily on works either written or performed by Reinhardt and Grappelli, though this time around, their musical scope is thrown wide open. Reinhardt's "Heavy Artillerie," which blends intricate bop on electric guitar with its swing roots, is combined in medley with the late fusion keyboardist Joe Zawinul's funky "It's About That Time." Kratzat introduces the snappy, swinging rendition of Charles Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square," highlighted by Perri's intricate acoustic guitar and Cafagna's testifying tenor sax, signifying a jazz revival -- no tent required. Classical music has been previously explored by the band, and theirs is a majestic arrangement of Frédéric Chopin's "Tristesse E Major Etude" Labro's elegant bandoneón, and Perri's intimate guitar, with Cafagna adding a bittersweet clarinet at its close. The furious bop vehicle "On the Steps" is based on the chord changes to Pat Martino's "On the Stairs," featuring Perri's pulsing electric guitar and Cafagna's robust tenor over the percolating gypsy rhythm section, with Labro adding a compelling solo on accordion. The band also contributed several fine originals. Perri penned the relaxing "Patio Swing," suggesting a lazy summer day, along with the surging "For Stéphane" in honor of guitarist Stéphane Wrembel (a young Frenchman whose diverse interests include gypsy jazz, among many forms of music). "Papillion" is a charming ballad co-written by Labro and Kratzat, with a nostalgic, bittersweet air, while Cafagna's "Restless Twilights" proves to be a catchy bossa nova. Hot Club of Detroit's interest in continuing to expand their musical horizons makes each new release a highly anticipated event. ~ Ken Dryden
Jazz - Released August 14, 2012 | Mack Avenue Records
The Hot Club of Detroit's fourth studio-album, 2012's Junction, builds upon the group's longstanding knack for mixing exploratory post-bop, soulful contemporary jazz, and French chanson into its foundation of swinging Django Reinhardt-style Gypsy jazz. Once again showcasing the talents of guitarists Evan Perri and Paul Brady, as well as accordionist Julien Labro, the album also introduces the new line-up of saxophonist Jon Irabagon, vocalist Cyrille Aimee, bassist Shawn Conley, and guest saxophonist Andrew Bishop. There is a more expansive, somewhat ruminative post-rock vibe on a few of the songs here, suggesting that the internal changes in the band's lineup led them down heretofore unexplored creative avenues. Irabagon brings several compositions to the table, including the lead-off soul-jazz meets Gypsy-swing number "Goodbye, Mr. Anderson." Also interesting is Labro's "Chutzpah," which deftly mixes moments of avant-garde saxophone skronk and free jazz with sections of melodic swing. French-born Aimee, who took third place in the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, brings a sound that encompasses both the throaty, intimate style of the French cabaret tradition and the virtuoso chops of Ella Fitzgerald on such numbers as the breezy "La Foule," the torchy ballad "Django Mort," and an inspired reworking of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." Elsewhere, Irabagon and Ann Arbor native Bishop dive into an amiable sparring session on "Hey!" and the band sticks to its frenetic instrumental sound on the Carl Stalling-esque "Puck Bunny." These are sophisticated recordings that make the most of the band's varied musical abilities, resulting in an album brimming with cross-pollinated musical sounds and textures. ~ Matt Collar
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