HOT CLUB OF LOS ANGELES BRINGS VIRTUOSITY, INFECTIOUS SPIRIT AND WIDE STYLISTIC REACH TO ITS TRIUMPHANT THIRD RELEASE NOVA
Produced by Jim Doyle and Carl Byron
“Best live music experience in town!” — Mike Myers, Santa Monica Arts Commission
Hot Club of Los Angeles is proud to present Nova, the third release from the celebrated “nuevo Django” ensemble that’s been hailed by none other than Jackson Browne as “an LA treasure.” HCLA brings excitement, irresistible swing and raw talent to its take on gypsy jazz, a hybrid style pioneered by Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) and the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1930s Paris. On Nova the quintet shares a collection of 15 varied numbers ranging from classic and contemporary gypsy jazz, bossa nova, French chanson and traditional Roma fare to film soundtrack, jazz standards and originals composed by the group’s members.
Formed in 2011, the group brought together local established musicians with backgrounds in country, jazz, pop, folk, rock, blues and world music. The current lineup, which includes founding members, drummer Jim Doyle and accordionist/pianist Carl Byron, along with bassist Paul Eckman and acoustic fretmasters Josh Workman and Jake Bluenote, draws on widely varied experience and eclectic taste, yielding a unique and modern approach to the storied “Hot Club” sound.
Widely loved for its Monday-night residency at The Cinema Bar in Culver City since 2011, HCLA also served as the house band for Jackson Browne’s Artists for Peace and Justice benefits in 2017- 18, backing up Jeff Bridges, Adam Sandler, Gaby Moreno, Jack Black, T-Bone Burnett, Petra Haden and other major stars. The group has welcomed Browne to perform mini-sets at The Cinema Bar, accompanied Devo’s Gerald Casale, and hosted visiting trad and gypsy jazz luminaries on the bandstand regularly. HCLA has also graced stages at Clifton’s Brookdale Ballroom, DjangoFest in Las Vegas, the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach, Jazzville in Palm Springs and many more.
The band’s cosmopolitan approach serves it well on Nova while tackling everything from Reinhardt staples “Belleville” and “Swing 42” to Nino Rota’s “Carlotta’s Galop” (from Fellini’s 1963 classic 8
½), with a rousing ensemble vocal on the latter. The other vocal features are “Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours” and “Les Feuilles Mortes” (better known as the standards “I Wish You Love” and “Autumn Leaves”) with their original seldom-heard French lyrics sung by Carl Byron in consummate style, and an uproarious version of the Roma traditional “Cdaje Šukarije” (“Beautiful Girl”), heartily sung
by Jake Bluenote in the Romano-Serbian language. Then there’s “Django,” something of a double tribute, composed in honor of Reinhardt by pianist John Lewis as a showpiece for the Modern Jazz Quartet. “Made in France,” meanwhile, is a bop-oriented line by one of Reinhardt’s greatest present- day guitar disciples, Biréli Lagrène.
Byron wrote the vivacious leadoff track “Château 22,” one of four solid contributions alongside “Valselona,” the off-kilter “Inference” and the breakneck “Pompedale” (a reference to the gypsy jazz rhythm guitar style “La Pompe”). The group sound is polished, the improvisations fleet and superbly engaging, with Josh Workman’s crisp, unflappable first-chair guitar prominently featured; Workman’s “Bossa Lola” is a quality vehicle as well. “Josh is a supreme musician who fires us up every night,” says Byron. “When our former first-chair guitar left, I immediately recruited Josh after he’d moved to LA.” Bluenote antes up with the banjo-infused “Raincloud Two-Step” and the gorgeous waltz “The Old Kingfisher,” with Byron on piano. “Jake is a rock,” declares Doyle. “He’s a hell of a musician.” Workman adds, “He’s got all this Balkan music. The fun thing about this band is that we all come at it from different angles.” Byron also highlights Eckman’s vital role: “Paul is our backbone. He’s a veteran first-call bassist with an encyclopedic knowledge of music that adds depth to everything we perform.”
With its adventurous repertoire and broadminded musical outlook, Hot Club of Los Angeles continues to gain fans and friends across a wide range of the listening public. Building from the initial Reinhardt inspiration, the group stays creatively restless and fresh, looking to draw historical connections and have fun while doing it. “Roots music encompasses a lot of what we consider gypsy jazz,” Byron has told The Argonaut. “Willie Nelson from way back was singing his own version of ‘Nuages’; he’s a huge Django Reinhardt fan. Western swing, roots music, gypsy music and even rockabilly all intersect in various ways.” Byron also notes, “Django never stopped evolving. That constantly inspires us.”
Nova, a fine follow-up to previous HCLA releases Cinema Swing and Django’s Tiger, is a musical discovery, opening a window into music’s past, present and future.