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There is something simultaneously exotic, passionate and downright swinging about gypsy jazz. That's the all-strings musical style that guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli popularized with their Hot Club of France collaborations in the 1930s and '40s.
Southwest Florida has its own splendid version of that Hot Jazz/Jazz Manouche sound. Sarasota-based Hot Club of SRQ, directed by violinist Keven Aland, plays regularly all over the area with groupings that range from duo, trio and quartet to larger possibilities depending on the event or venue's needs- and budget.
I caught them two Sundays ago at the tap room at Fat Point Brewery in Punta Gorda. This time out, the band was the trio- with Aland, guitarist Jon McLaughlin and bassist Glenn Stevenson. They dug into a wide range of material, not just from the gypsy jazz canon. But they performed it in that mesmerizing, collective style.
On any given gig, their repertoire may weave through Parisian jazz, rumba flamenco, bebop, bossa nova, tango, Afro-Cuban music and the Great American Songbook as they explore fresh facets in the music of Rienhardt, Stochelo Rosenberg, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Bireli Lagrene, Dizzy Gillespie. Listen close and you may hear a Beatles lick worked into a gypsy-jazz tune.
Aland and McLaughlin performing Sidnet Bechet's Si Tu Vois Ma Mere."
Aland is a classically trained violinist who fell in love with gypsy jazz during his college days when he heard Grappelli- Reinhardt recordings. While working in a variety of musical contexts, he started putting together a band with authentic gypsy- jazz instrumentation around 2001. The band and the sound have been evolving ever since.
This style is a great vehicle for expression," Aland says. A lot of people who may say they don't like jazz come up to me and say they like our music."
The lineup for quartet and quintet gigs, has included guitarist Nikola Baltic, bassists Don Mopsick or J.P. Coley, and clarinetist Jim Snyder.
The Hot Club of SRQ Quintet, featuring Aland, Baltic, McLaughlin, Stevenson and reed player Rodney Rojas, performs Sunday, September 24 at the Side Door at The Palladium in St. Petersburg at 3 pm.
Hot Club of SRQ performs every Saturday at the State Street Eating House in downtown Sarasota, and alternates Sunday afternoons between Fat Point Brewery in Punta Gorda and Cask & Ale in Sarasota.
Thursday nights, the duo version of the band is at The Cottage Restaurant on Siesta Key. Aland performs with McLaughlin or Nick Baltic on guitar. Hot Club of SRQ performs in a variety of other locations as well. Check out the band schedule for details.
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.