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Hot Club of Cowtown w/ Mando Salas
December 7, 2015 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Get ready for hot jazz and western swing with Hot Club of Cowtown. You might think a band from Austin, Texas with the word “Cowtown” in its name spends its time off from touring herding cattle at a West Texas ranch or maybe in Nashville writing songs about whiskey and loose women. Not the Hot Club of Cowtown. “We recently took a band vacation to the Gypsy Festival at St. Maries de la Mer in the South of France,” says the band’s fiddler and vocalist, Elana James. Whit Smith, Hot Club’s guitar player and vocalist, is a regular at the prestigious Djangofest Northwest in Whidbey, Island, Washington, and bass player Jake Erwin has the Hungarian folk band Csokolom in regular rotation on his home stereo.
“Our band is fiddle, guitar, and bass, and they can do anything together. We’ve always played a combination of hot jazz and Western swing, but it’s been really a joy to finally distill part of our essence and serve up a record that is purely jazzy,” says James, who in fact was once a horse wrangler in Colorado, as well as a former student of classical music at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France. Says Smith, “Once Elana became aware that in jazz music and swing, you could express yourself more in improvisation, I think that attracted her to it. She still likes classical, and I do too.” Smith grew up hearing his parents play lots of folk music, especially acoustic blues, but as a teenager he naturally rebelled and turned sharply toward hard rock, which still informs his approach to hot jazz and Western swing. The impression that the band is in some way a country act, especially in the current climate of American popular music, is somewhat misleading since the Hot Club’s influences have always been as much the musette music of the smoky bistros of 1930s Paris as they are the hoedowns and Western swing of the mythic American West.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the Hot Club of Cowtown, on their seventh studio album, is finally releasing Rendezvous in Rhythm, a thrilling display of this Texas trio’s virtuosity and its elegant, more European inspirations. “We had lots of people asking us to make a record of standards,” says Smith, “So there you go, here’s a record full of swing standards. We’re not trying to compete with anyone who’s writing the songs. It’s more of a vehicle for one way we really like to play — starting with familiar ground and then improvising from there.” By way of inspiration James adds, “One of the most thrilling nights of my life was when Gheorghe Anghel (the violinist from legendary Romanian Gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks) came over to my house and he and Whit and I jammed on songs like ‘Avalon’ and ‘Exactly Like You’ in my living room with him ’til four in the morning. And then he asked if he could use my phone to call home to Romania. It was the coolest thing ever.”
Have a listen!