Artist Gallery Photo

Hot Club of Cowtown

Tue, Sep 24 -
Wed, Sep 25, 2019

$30.50 ($6 Service fee Included) All purchases are nonrefundable/nonexchangeable.

Tickets may be purchased on-line or by phone.
Night of show seating typically available.

The Pacific Jazz Institute at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley welcomes energetic western swing trio the Hot Club of Cowtown. Band members include Elana James (fiddle/vocals), Whit Smith (guitar/vocals) and Jake Erwin (bass/vocals). Show times Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30pm. Doors open at 6:00pm.

artist info

“This trio’s stylistic genesis – as well as title – stems from the realization that the great heritage of strings (guitars and violins) originates mutually with the Manouche gypsies of France and the no-less virtuosic hillbilly pickers and fiddlers of Oklahoma and Texas … Together for over 15 years and a dozen albums, the threesome of high-heeled violinist Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin showed from the beginning that jazz and country music exist together on the same page, a highly commendable achievement if ever there was one.” – Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal

Hot Club of Cowtown formed in 1997. The daughter of a classical violinist and an ad man from Kansas City, James studied comparative religion at Barnard College and worked at the Buddhist magazine Tricycle in New York, but found herself seduced away from the writer's life by the fiddle. To watch James perform — her blonde hair flying, elbow pumping, eyes locked on the fingerboard — is to know she chose the right career path.

Smith was a rocker when he discovered Western swing working at New York's Tower Records. His 1946 Gibson archtop guitar, played through a '37 Gibson amp, gives him a distinctly early-jazz sound. After jamming together in New York's East Village for a couple of years, Smith and James moved to Austin in 1997, when they met Erwin and officially started the band. In a town that's particular about its live music, the Hot Club quickly rose to the top.

"There's a lot that you can do with three pieces. It's just enough to kind of make it really sound big and really sound full," Erwin says. "People often say to us, 'It sounds like there's five or six of you up there, and there's only three of you. How do you guys do that?'

They do it with the guitar playing lots of substitute chords to create movement in the rhythm section — the fiddle playing rhythm when not soloing, plus a percussive, slap-bass style that evokes rockabilly, down to Erwin's slicked-back pompadour.

By 2004, the band was riding high but buckling under the stress of non-stop touring, which led it to temporarily break up. Elana James joined Bob Dylan's band for a spell and cut an album under her own name. Erwin and Smith went off to play with other outfits. As Whit Smith says, the breakup taught them that hot players are interchangeable, but the right chemistry is rare.

"I'd be up there on the stage with first-rate people, but you just felt like pulling a wagon through the mud," he says. "For my birthday in 2008, I asked for my birthday if I could have the Hot Club of Cowtown back, and they said okay."

The trio has been setting stages ablaze since they got back together, making new fans with every live performance. Hot Club of Cowtown is currently on tour, playing its revival of Western swing and early jazz — and somewhere, Bob Wills is hollering.

Along with the Hot Club’s dedicated cult following worldwide — they have toured for the U.S. State Department as musical ambassadors to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria, the Republic of Georgia and the Sultanate of Oman — certain titans of the industry have also taken notice. Bob Dylan, with whom the band toured and with whom James has toured and recorded, is a continuing inspiration. The Hot Club has toured extensively worldwide as well as with favorite artists including Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Gatemouth Brown, the Avett Brothers, Dan Hicks, Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music, the Squirrell Nut Zippers, and many others. Career highlights have included the Glastonbury Festival, appearances on Later With Jools Holland, the Cambridge Folk Festival, the Glastonbury Festival and BBC Radio 2’s Radcliffe and Maconie and Bob Harris Country shows, Mountain Stage, A Prairie Home Companion, the Fuji Rock Festival and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.


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