Jan. 23 will mark the 100th birthday of the great Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, and the Dakota is celebrating with a mini-Django fest: four nights of Hot Club music.
The party begins this Sunday, Jan. 17, with a Hot Club Showcase. On Monday and Tuesday, the Dorado Schmitt All-Stars take the stage. On Wednesday, Grammy-winning violinist Mark O’Connor brings his Hot Swing project to town, with the addition of singer Heather Masse of the Wailin’ Jennys.
The biggest bargain (in terms of dollars — this is not a comment on quality) is Sunday’s Showcase, when $10 will buy live music from three Twin Cities hot club bands and vocalist Connie Evingson. Starting at 6 p.m., you’ll hear the Clearwater Hot Club, the Parisota Hot Club, and the Twin Cities Hot Club.
Evingson will also emcee the show. I spoke with her earlier this week, soon after she returned from performing in New York with the Hot Club of Detroit. Evingson has recorded two CDs of hot club music, “Stockholm Sweetnin’” (2006) with the Hot Club of Sweden and “Gypsy in My Soul” (2004) with members of Clearwater and Parisota, the Seattle group Pearl Django, and special guests.
She’s working on other projects, but will likely record with the Hot Club of Detroit before too long because, in her words, “Every time I sing with a hot club group, I’m reinfected.”
MinnPost: What is Hot Club music?
Connie Evingson: A fusion of Gypsy music and American swing. Basically, Django Reinhardt grew up in the Gypsy tradition and started playing at a very young age. In his late teens, he discovered the music of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong and started incorporating it into his own music. Then he met violinist Stéphane Grappelli, who had also fallen in love with American jazz. The two of them started working together to create this style of music.
The name “Hot Club” comes from a group of jazz record collectors who gathered in France to listen to American jazz records, which were hard to get. They called themselves the Hot Club because they were listening to hot jazz from America. Eventually there was a real place and Django’s group was the house band, the Quintet of the Hot Club of France.
MP: What draws you to this music personally?
CE: The spirit and the romance. There’s something about it that’s very romantic. Part of that is the history, but also the feel of the music. It spans the whole gamut of human emotions. There’s a melancholy side to it, and pure exuberance on the other end. In between you have uptempo swing tunes that are fun and medium ballads that are sweet and dear.
In simple musical terms, there are a lot of tunes in minor keys, a lot of tunes in major keys, medium ballads, bolero, and French musette — waltzlike music that makes you feel like dancing. Such variety! Plus it’s highly rhythmic, and rhythm is always captivating. Rhythm is basic to the human experience. The heartbeat.
MP: What can people listen for?
CE: Between the three groups, there will be slight differences in instrumentation. The core of the Django Hot Club sound is lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and bass. But you’ll also hear other instruments — violin, accordion, saxophone.
Django experimented a lot; he wasn’t a purist. The Quintet of the Hot Club had two rhythm guitars and violin. Later, he worked with big bands and small ensembles, more like jazz groups. It’s allowed.
Each of the groups will certainly play some Django originals. Robb Henry [of Parisota] likes to adapt songs from other styles of music, like [Van Morrison’s] “Moondance” and [the Beatles’] “Things We Said Today. Also, Robb came up as a blues guitarist, so you’ll hear a lot of blues influence. So listen for different instrumentation and different influences.
We’ll do some talking about the music during the show. For people who are new to the style and genre, we want to welcome them to the fold. Background will be shared.
Hot Club music is sweet, energetic, and dramatic. But there’s one word that says it all: Romantic.
Sunday: Hot Club Showcase. With Clearwater Hot Club (Sam Miltich on guitar, Matthew Miltich on bass, Dave Karr on saxophones, Mark Kreitzer on guitar, Connie Evingson on vocals), Parisota Hot Club (Robb Henry on guitar, Gary Schulte on violin, Jim Chenoweth on bass, Patrick Harison on accordion, and the Twin Cities Hot Club (Robert Bell on guitar, Reynold Philipsek on guitar, Gary Schulte on violin, Matt Senjem on bass). Fine lineups all. You can see a Parisota Hot Club video here, Twin Cities Hot Club here; and Clearwater Hot Club here.
Hot Club Showcase, Sunday, Jan. 17, 6 p.m., Dakota ($10).