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November 2008

Hot Club Of Detroit
Night Town
Mack Avenue Records

Proving it is neither one-off gimmick nor one-hit wonder, the Hot Club of Detroit has returned with its second excellent album of Gypsy jazz. On Night Town, the quintet—guitarist and bandleader Evan Perri, rhythm guitarist Paul Brady, accordionist Julien Labro, bassist Shannon Wade and saxophonist Carl Cafagna—serve up a delectable mix of 15 originals, standards and surprises with an authenticity and excitement that transport the listener to 1930s France.

What a rush it is to listen to this music. Whether the tune is a Django Reinhardt standby, one of Perri’s original, or a rearrangement of Jelly Roll Morton or Maurice Ravel, it belongs here, and that’s a credit not only to the musicianship of these young men but the great fun they have playing together. It helps that Perri is a virtuoso on the guitar; we can only marvel at his dexterity and sharp tone on tunes like “Coquette,” where he picks off a squall of notes while Labro holds a chord and shakes his accordion’s bellows for all they’re worth. Later, Labro and Cafagna, on tenor sax, trade twos and fours in a pitched battle during the Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt number “Blues Up and Down,” and it raises hairs on the back of your neck. Whatever these guys do, it sounds natural. Even their Gypsy-jazz arrangement of Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven” sounds as if that song had originally been written for a hot club.

Originally published in November 2008
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