Hot Club of New Orleans

The Circle Bar

June 21, 2004

After the first few songs, I thought the band was uptight and pretentious. Just because they were clean-cut, didn't swing their legs around and didn't sing with swagger. Turns out I was wrong. They just took their music seriously, and they needed a batch of songs before the crowd loosened up and their humor presented itself.

The Hot Club of New Orleans were named as an homage to the group fronted by gypsy jazz guitarist Django Rheinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli. With guitarists Todd Duke and David Mooney, they had no problem re-creating the gypsy and '30's jazz feeling Monday night at The Circle Bar. The band was rounded out by violinist Matt Rhody, clarinetist Christopher Kohl, and bassist Peter Harris.

The band were not strict traditionalists, though. They mixed covers with originals, and their originals were just as enjoyable as their covers. That's saying a lot, considering most of their covers came from Duke Ellington, including "Mood Indigo" and "Lucky So and So," a light romantic number.

The band started off their set with plaintive instrumentals in which the raw beauty of each instrument became apparent. Whether slow, mid-tempo, or rollicking, their songs were always rhythmically hot thanks to the bass and the furious strumming of at least one guitar. One nice exception was when Duke played chord progressions while Mooney soloed.

Each band member showed off their technical prowess during solos, but Kohl and Harris stood out. On two occasions, Harris played broken, minimal, beautiful progressions with no timekeeper except for his head. All drummers should keep such good time. Near the end of the set, Kohl twice accentuated solos by turning that mutha out! Wailing away like it was his last chance.

Rhody, Kohl and Duke took their stabs at vocal numbers, but the set's highlight was an original vocal song by Mooney entitled, "Stutterstep." Mooney's weary romantic lyrics went well with the push and pull of the 7/8 pop song. Great for a June evening of forehead sweat and natural humid air depressants.

As the set went on, the audience and band members fed off each other's increased energy. More clapping, mid-song outbursts and finger snapping. The band joked with each other more. When Duke introduced the next song as being about "the little things," Rhody paused and said, "Like high speed Internet."

This was a good performance. Look forward to the future and respect the past with The Hot Club of New Orleans.

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