Hot Club Of Cowtown: A Texas Trio’s Tribute–”LISTEN”
Several cities have “Hot Clubs” — bands that play so-called “Gypsy jazz” in the tradition of Django Reinhardt. There’s the Hot Club of New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia.
Now comes the Hot Club of Cowtown: a trio in Austin, Texas, that specializes in Western swing. Its members have been musical ambassadors for the U.S. State Department, played Lincoln Center and been inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. The trio consists of bassist Jake Ervin, guitarist Whit Smith and fiddler Elana James. Their latest album, What Makes Bob Holler, is a tribute to the late Bob Wills, the so-called King of Western Swing.
Hot Club of Cowtown formed in 1997. The daughter of a classical violinist and an ad man from Kansas City, James studied comparative religion at Barnard College and worked at the Buddhist magazine Tricycle in New York, but found herself seduced away from the writer’s life by the fiddle. To watch James perform — her blonde hair flying, elbow pumping, eyes locked on the fingerboard — is to know she chose the right career path.
Smith was a rocker when he discovered Western swing working at New York’s Tower Records. His 1946 Gibson archtop guitar, played through a ’37 Gibson amp, gives him a distinctly early-jazz sound. After jamming together in New York’s East Village for a couple of years, Smith and James moved to Austin in 1997, when they met Erwin and officially started the band. In a town that’s particular about its live music, the Hot Club quickly rose to the top.
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