Sunday, August 3, 2008

HOT DAMN!

Dear Evan Perri,

A few weeks back, the folks at Mack Avenue Records sent me an advance copy of the Hot Club of Detroit new album Night Town, the follow up to the quintet’s 2006 highly touted self-titled debut. Evan, before I explain why I love this release so, I have a confession. Before Night Town hit record stores the editor of the Metrotimes, W. Kim Heron, asked me if I’d be interested in profiling your band. I turned the assignment down because I wasn’t familiar enough with the quintet’s material.

Evan, after listening to Night Town, I regretted not accepting the assignment because I’ve been unable to tear my ears always from the album. I wondered how the Hot Club of Detroit formed. I did some digging.

I read you became a devotee of Gypsy Swing and Django Reinhardt after hearing the guitarist play Honeysuckle Rose on one of the Hot Club de France’s recordings. That was your introduction to Gypsy Swing, a form of jazz Reinhardt pioneered as the co-leader of the Hot Club de France.

You master Reinhardt’s style. Then in 2003 you recruited saxophonist Carl Cafagna, accordionist Julien Labro, bassist Shannon Wade and guitarist Paul Brady, your classmates at Wayne State University. You taught them how to play Gypsy Swing. In 2006, the Hot Club of Detroit signed with Mack Ave Records. Since then, you guys have won a slew of awards.

Studying Reinhart’s music, you learned a drummer-less and a piano-less rhythm section could still swing hard. You wanted the Hot Club of Detroit to be unconventional not merely a carbon copy of Reinhart’s band.

Of the 15 selections on Night Town, four were Reinhardt’s. Evan, on this sophomore outing, the Hot Club of Detroit sung hard. Saxophonist Carl Cafagna and accordionist Julien had a grand time riffing and horsing around on the Blues Up and Down. Cafagna knows how to get to the point. And Julien Labro nickname ought to be the Bud Powell of the accordionist, the way he zipped up and down the chord changes.

Evan did you feel Reinhardt’s spirit was present during the making of Night Town? You strummed the guitar as if Reinhardt’s spirit was in your fingers on Django’s Monkey and Speevy. Night Town is a solid follow up album. The quintet has perfected its niche.

Evan is it too premature to inquire about The Hot Club of Detroit’s next project. If welcome suggestions, I have one I think would excite Reinhardt if he was still alive. The quintet could tackle some Motown classic, and you could even tentatively title the project Gypsy Swingin’ in the Streets.

Sincerely yours,
Charles L. Latimer
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