Hot Club of Cowtown — Elana James, left, Whit Smith and Jake Erwin — will perform Thursday at The Palms. Courtesy photo

Hot Club of Cowtown — Elana James, left, Whit Smith and Jake Erwin — will perform Thursday at The Palms. Courtesy photo


Hot Club of Cowtown brings intoxicating mix of Western swing and gypsy jazz to The Palms

By From page A7 | January 23, 2013

The Austin-based trio Hot Club of Cowtown, known for its infectiously energetic embrace of a variety of styles with a focus on Western swing and gypsy jazz, returns at 8 p.m. Thursday to The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in downtown Winters. Tickets are $20.

Since forming more than a decade ago, Hot Club of Cowtown has cheerfully ignored established musical borderlines to create a joyful and compelling sound that is very much its own. Case in point: The trio’s name is a reflection of its members’ love of the Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli music (creators of so-called “gypsy jazz”) of the Hot Club de France as well as Western swing as popularized by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys and others.

The band blends these two seeming disparate forms of music — jazz and country — and makes it work.

Hot Club of Cowtown has not locked itself into strictly adhering to these two forms of music; since releasing its first album 15 years ago, Hot Club has included spicy versions of fiddle tunes (“Orange Blossom Special”; “Cherokee Shuffle”), selections from the Great American Songbook (George and Ira Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me”), vintage American pop and jazz (Hoagy Carmichael’s “Star Dust”) and originals (Elana James’ “Reunion”; Whit Smith’s “Emily”) along with hot jazz stylings and Western swing classics (Bob Wills’ “I Laugh When I Think How I Cried Over You”).

Each member contributes a host of essential ingredients. Elana James (fiddle and vocals) combines technical mastery, a deep knowledge of fiddle styles from Oklahoma to Appalachia as well as Grappelli’s hot jazz violin. Whit Smith (guitar and vocals) lays down Django-esque lightning-fast, clear solos and inventive harmonic chords on his vintage guitar. Jake Erwin (bass and vocals), with his show-stopping slap-style playing simultaneously, provides the bass line and the percussion.

At Thursday’s show at The Palms, Hot Club of Cowtown will be playing selections from its broad catalogue as well as previewing numbers from its forthcoming album “Rendezvous in Rhythm,” which is due out later this year.

Tickets are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if not sold out. For more information, call 530-795-1825 or visit palmsplayhouse.com or hotclubofcowtown.com.

Kate Laddish

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