Texas band brings Paris to Genoa | RecordCourier.com

Texas band brings Paris to Genoa

Staff Reports

Hot Club of Cowtown is performing at the Genoa Cowboy Festival.
George Brainard |

Texas-based band Hot Club of Cowtown is playing music from their new CD “Rendevous in Rhythm” at the Genoa Cowboy Festival on May 3-5.

Their latest release is a collection of Gypsy songs and American Songbook standards played acoustically and recorded in the hot jazz style of violin and guitar masters Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.

Recorded last July at the Zone Recording Studio in Dripping Springs, Texas, it’s the Hot Club’s first-ever dedicated foray into the Gypsy jazz and French swing of Paris in the ’30s, and features the band’s sparkling spins on standards in the style of Reinhardt and Grappelli including “Crazy Rhythm,” “Minor Swing,” “Dark Eyes,” “The Continental,” “I’m in the Mood for Love,” “Douce Ambiance,” and many more.

“We recently took a band vacation to the Gypsy Festival at St. Maries de la Mer in the South of France,” said fiddler and vocalist, Elana James. “Our band is fiddle, guitar, and bass, and they can do anything together. We’ve always played a combination of hot jazz and Western swing, but it’s been really a joy to finally distill part of our essence and serve up a record that is purely jazzy.”

The impression that the band is in some way a country act, especially in the current climate of American popular music, is somewhat misleading since the Hot Club’s influences have always been as much the musette music of the smoky bistros of 1930s Paris as they are the hoedowns and Western swing of the mythic American West.

For more information about the band or a full schedule of events, visit http://www.genoacowboyfestival.org.

“We had lots of people asking us to make a record of standards,” said guitarist Whit Smith, “So there you go, here’s a record full of swing standards. We’re not trying to compete with anyone who’s writing the songs. It’s more of a vehicle for one way we really like to play — starting with familiar ground and then improvising from there.”

James said the inspiration for their sound came from the violinist from legendary Romanian Gypsy band “Taraf de Haidouks.”

“One of the most thrilling nights of my life was when Gheorghe Anghel came over to my house and he and Whit and I jammed on songs like ‘Avalon’ and ‘Exactly Like You’ in my living room ’til 4 in the morning,” she said.

“And then he asked if he could use my phone to call home to Romania. It was absolutely the coolest thing ever.”

James said what makes “Rendezous in Rhythm” special for the band is the way it was recorded.

“We went back to our way of having everyone in the room together. We recorded it live, right there next to each other so we could hear each other play,” she added. “I play acoustic on it — not big news, but usually in the past, I would play a mixture of electric and acoustic and sometimes overdub the electric guitar or vice versa. The majority of this album is the three of us there and playing acoustic. We tried to capture the feel of our live shows as much as possible.”

For more information about the band or a full schedule of events, visit http://www.genoacowboyfestival.org.