Album Review: Hot Club of Cowtown — Rendezvous in Rhythm
Anyone wanting to discern Hot Club of Cowtown’s musical influences can do so before listening to a single note the trio plays: their band name is a mashup of gypsy jazz kings Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s Quintette du Hot Club de France and Western Swing legend Bob Wills’ “Big Ball’s in Cowtown.” On their newest album, Rendezvous in Rhythm, the group focuses mainly on their jazz roots (consider it a companion piece to their last album, the delightful Western Swing record What Makes Bob Holler).
They deliver an irresistible take on “Minor Swing,” the gypsy jazz tune that’s become a favorite for bluegrassers, with each musician nimbly weaving through deft solos, and jaunty album closer “Douce Ambiance” is an auditory time machine, transporting the listener back to 1930s Paris. Multiple selections from the Great American Songbook pop up on the album as well. Elana James leads the band through “Melancholy Baby,” and “Slow Boat to China,” while guitarist Whit Smith takes over lead singer duties for a sweet version of “I’m in the Mood for Love.” The Hot Club even puts their own jazzy spin on Russian folk song “Ochi Chornye” (“Dark Eyes”), which begins softly before building to a frenzied, yet intricate crescendo.
Though The Hot Club is one of those acts whose genre-melding music is best experienced at a live show—preferably one with a sizeable dance floor–as opposed to listening on the car stereo or iPod, any rendezvous with this band is a whirlwind journey that’s worth taking.
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