Music in Los Angeles: The new jass
Check out the new jass movement—some of the best up-and-coming music in Los Angeles.
Photograph: Alex Loftus
Hot Club of Los Angeles
Lineup: Carl Byron: accordion; Frank San Filippo: bass; Cliff Wagner: violin; Jeffrey Ross: guitar; Peter Kavanaugh: guitar; Bob Ricketts: guitar; Jon McDuffie: guitar.
Where to hear them: Cinema Bar
On a stage so small some of the players can't fit on it, Hot Club LA fills the air every Monday night at Cinema Bar with the intoxicating rhythms of legendary Gypsy jazz guitarist and composer Django Reinhardt. Born into a nomadic band of Manouche gypsies in Belgium in 1910, Reinhardt is often called the greatest guitarist of all time, despite having lost two fingers in a fire and only living to age 43.
Hot Club LA—one of many hot club bands around the world inspired by Reinhardt’s original group from 1934—was formed in September 2011 by Jesse Harris. Harris moved to Austin, Texas last February, but the band—comprising veteran musicians with long musical histories that include stints with Rose Maddox, Rank and File, Ike Turner, Hubert Sumlin, Warren Zevon and Michelle Shocked—plays on.
What's the attraction of the music from this long-gone gypsy guitarist for musicians whose tastes range from punk and blues to country and classical? Bob Ricketts, who’s played with Hollywood hillbillies the Groovy Rednecks for the past 21 years, says, “All guitar players who actually hear the guy [Reinhardt] are astounded by what he’s doing—his phrasing, riffs and arpeggios are truly remarkable. When you consider he was doing it with only two and a half fingers on his left hand, that intrigues all guitar players, and then there’s the infectious rhythm of the music itself.”
Hot Club LA is propelled by the virtuoso guitar work of Jeff Ross, Bob Ricketts and Peter Kavanaugh (with occasional subbing by Jon McDuffie), and with violin from Cliff Wagner, accordion and vocals in French from Carl Byron, all anchored by the rhythm section of Frank San Filippo on bass and Jim Doyle on drums. The band's spiraling, improbable melodies and renditions of Reinhardt’s compositions are so affecting as to inspire even the shyest onlookers to tap toes, clap hands or take a spin on the postage stamp-sized dance floor.
Hot Club LA's music will take you to the world of Manouche jazz in the '30s. Add in strong, cheap drinks at the oldest bar in Culver City and it's not a bad place to be.