Hot Club of Detroit expands its horizons with “Junction,” available Aug. 14

Hot Club of Detroit. Photo credit: Anna Webber

Following up It’s About That Time, Night Town and the eponymous 2006 debut Hot Club of Detroit – Hot Club of Detroit expands its sonic and compositional horizons with Junction. Retaining its original lineup of reeds, two guitars, accordion, upright bass and no drums, this is the band’s fourth release for Mack Avenue Records. There are personnel changes, however, and for the first time, the Hot Club of Detroit is joined (on three tracks) by a vocalist: French musician Cyrille Aimée, a native of Django Reinhardt’s hometown and third-place winner of the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Competition.
Junction’s sound is at once vintage and boldly new, rooted in the legacy of Django Reinhardt but also the sensibilities of Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny, John Zorn and even the rock band Phish. Far from a traditional gypsy jazz ensemble, Hot Club of Detroit (HCOD) proves itself a versatile modern jazz group, with a unique acoustic-electric sound that surges past expectations and genre boundaries.
“A lot of bands that model themselves after the Hot Club of France are now working with drummers, or percussion of some sort,” says HCOD rhythm guitarist Paul Brady in a news release. “We never have. And by doing that it forces us to think creatively about what we can do without it. How can we approach odd meter, how can we approach certain grooves? Regardless of what a drummer can add, that absence to me is interesting and different.”
Unfortunately, Junction comes at a difficult time. HCOD bassist Andrew Kratzat and his fiancée were both seriously injured in an auto accident in July 2011, and are currently on a long road to recovery.
“This album is a dedication to both of them,” declares Brady. “It’s been tough for us, musically but also emotionally,” adds HCOD accordionist Julien Labro. “Andrew is like a brother, a family member. But we’re still hopeful, and one day I’m sure he’ll be back to playing.”
Honoring Kratzat’s example, bassist Shawn Conley brings stellar musicianship to Junction. Another new face is saxophonist Jon Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition and member of the acclaimed punk-jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Andrew Bishop, also on reeds, makes appearances on three tracks, increasing the band’s power and timbral variation. (Family obligations required Carl Cafagna, the group’s original saxophonist, to step aside.)
Different sounds coming together, band members collaborating from different cities: all of this makes Junction the perfect album title. “It’s a nice mix of pop-oriented material and also rather avant-garde stuff,” Brady concludes. “I remember an interview with Marc Ribot, my favorite guitarist in the world, talking about how avant-garde and pop have a lot of crossover, and even some of the musicians are the same people, like Marc himself. It made total sense to me, and it came into my mind while preparing this record.”
 Perri concurs: “We’ve always believed that if Django Reinhardt were alive today, he wouldn’t play the same way he always did. In his short lifespan, you can see how much evolution and vision he had. To pay tribute to him is to continue pursuing our own ideas.” 
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