Ever since the release of Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown in 1999, there has been a blossoming of interest in the music of the late jazz guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt. A number of ensembles have sprung up paying homage to Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France: from the Hot Club of Philly to the Hot Club of Cowtown.
The Hot Club of Detroit stands out because, more than any other Gypsy Jazz spinoff, they treat Reinhardt’s music as a part of the jazz tradition. As my friend Paul Brady–who plays rhythm guitar for the group–has argued here before, this is an under-appreciated aspect of Reinhardt’s legacy. Their latest release, It’s About That Time, continues this project admirably.
The group consists of Evan Perri on lead guitar, Julien Labro on accordion, Carl Cafagna on sax and clarinet, Andrew Kratzat on bass and Brady on rhythm guitar. The unusual instrumentation allows for clever exploration of the Gypsy Jazz repertoire: the title track, for example, is a mashup of Reinhardt’s Heavy Artillerie with the Miles Davis classic. The group also borrows from source material beyond the Gypsy Jazz canon–take their 5/4-grooving cover of Charles Mingus’s “Nostalgia in Times Square,” bouncing with the same aplomb of Reinhardt’s music from 75 years ago.
The original compositions on the album reflect a similar quality. The opening track, “On the Steps,” mixes Reinhardt’s emblematic up-tempo virtuosity with Coltrane-inspired harmony, to great effect. As with Crump’s Reclamation, this project conveys a clear musical message: a combination of contemporary-leaning innovation and deep roots in the jazz tradition.
Most music consumption these days is digital, but you might want to get a hard copy of this CD, as it features liner notes by the esteemed jazz writer and historian Dan Morgenstern, a nice bonus that places The Hot Club of Detroit even more deeply into dialogue with the music’s past.