Seventy years after Django Reinhardt's Quintette du Hot Club de France fused Gypsy guitar with the jazz of the day, a new "Hot Club" has emerged in the Motor City. The Hot Club of Detroit puts a modern spin on the Gypsy-jazz tradition, with Evan Perri on lead guitar, Julien Labro on accordion, Carl Cafagna on soprano and tenor sax, Paul Brady on rhythm guitar and Andrew Kratzat on bass.
Perri, the group's founder and spokesman in this Piano Jazz session, is a Detroit native whose jazz-guitarist father provided him a solid grounding in the straight-ahead tradition. He started studying piano when he was 5, but, as he tells host Marian McPartland, "When I discovered skateboarding, I didn't want to play piano anymore." When he was 17, his father bought him a Fender Stratocaster, and it changed his life. Perri's college guitar professor pointed him to the music of Django Reinhardt and he was hooked almost immediately. Perri formed the first incarnation of the Hot Club of Detroit in 2003.
"People say you catch the Django bug and never get rid of it," he says.
The Hot Club of Detroit's music ranges from the traditional Gypsy-jazz sound on "Coquette" to the bal musette waltz titled "Passions." The group also pays tribute to Reinhardt with one of his most famous compositions, "Nuages."
But it's not all tradition with this band, as its members prove with an arrangement of Miles Davis' "Seven Steps to Heaven." The tune opens with a driving Gypsy guitar rhythm setting up the changes, then gives way to the familiar staccato stop/start of the tune. Then the whole thing takes off, the Gypsy strum and rapidly walking bass creating an engine under the interplay of a liquid accordion and the bopping tenor sax.
"I think 'Seven Steps to Heaven' works very well for your band," McPartland says after the last note. "It's true that any kind of music can be suited to your band." Evan Perri grins and replies, "I guess that's what we're here to prove."
Originally recorded March 10, 2009.