Ghost of Django Reinhardt haunts Gypsy jazz of the Icy Hot Club of California


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The spectre of Django Reinhardt haunts the Icy Hot Club of California. No, there's no need to phone the Ghostbusters as this is not a paranormal haunting. Rather, Los Angeles-based guitarists Ethan Emerson and Ray Bergstrom are attempting to resurrect a somewhat dormant genre, Gypsy jazz, on their six-cut debut The Icy Hot Club EP. Opening with a Reinhardt cover, “Minor Swing," Emerson and Bergstrom waste no time in unveiling their guitar wizardry as driving acoustic riffs surge forward at spellbinding velocity.

What's mesmerizing about the Icy Hot Club of California is how Emerson and Bergstrom sound as if they're locked in a duel, as on “Delilah," when their brittle, atmospheric guitars seem to be overlapping with each other. There is palpable chemistry between their playing; notice how when one speeds up the other one slows down on their version of Nino Rota's “The Godfather Theme." There is a certain amount of give and take between the guitarists, and their partnership is the heart of the group.

Emerson met Bergstrom at UCLA, united by their common fascination with Gypsy jazz. “Being that gypsy jazz is very technical and demanding to play, Ray was the best candidate to learn this new style because he not only has great technique but is a fabulous musician as well," Emerson explained. “We slowly learned to the music together, performing here and there, and played with a few different bass players."

The Icy Hot Club of California formed in 2009. “I decided to I wanted to start a Gypsy jazz group in the style of Django Reinhardt, and began learning the style, which has a different right-hand picking technique," Emerson said. “We recorded our CD in March 2010 with bassist Nick Shaadt, but we sound much different now that we have a violin player and sing vocal harmonies. After going to Djangofest Northwest on Whidbey Island in September 2010, I met some of the Gypsy jazz guys in L.A., and bassist Justin LeChance was one of them. He knows and loves the music, and we hit it off with him immediately. Around the same we added violinist Tim Weed to the band, too."

Emerson is quite aware that there isn't a significant following for Gypsy jazz in L.A., something which doesn't faze him. “When I gave up trying to 'make it' as a guitarist, I started playing this music without the expectations and pressure to succeed, such as making a lot of money, and it's been so much more enjoyable," Emerson revealed. “It's not that I don't take The Icy Hot Club seriously. It's quite the opposite. But our whole attitude with the band is to have fun."

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