Led by guitarist Evan Perri, the Hot Club of Detroit are among the 21st century groups that have been updating the Gypsy swing style popularized by the seminal Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt -- who was only 43 when he died of a brain hemorrhage on May 16, 1953 but continued to influence a long list of disciples more than half a century after his death.
Some Gypsy jazz artists of the 21st century are purists who go out of their way to emulate Reinhardt's classic recordings of the '30s and '40s, while others favor a more expansive approach and combine their love of Reinhardt's legacy with a lot of post-Reinhardt influences; Perri's Hot Club of Detroit clearly fall into the latter category. The Hot Club of Detroit have included many of Reinhardt's compositions in their repertoire along with songs that weren't written by Reinhardt but came from his era, such as Jelly Roll Morton's "Sweet Substitute" and Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose." However, Perri's combo has also recorded plenty of songs that were written long after Reinhardt's death, ranging from Miles Davis and Victor Feldman's "Seven Steps to Happen" and Wes Montgomery's "Leila" to Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova standard "How Insensitive," aka "Insensatez." The Hot Club of Detroit have even included a surprisingly uptempo arrangement of the theme from The Godfather in their repertoire.
Perri was born on June 12, 1979 in Detroit and grew up not far away in Grosse Pointe, MI, where he began studying the piano at the age of four and played electric bass as a teenager in some local punk bands before making the guitar his main instrument. Perri, whose father was a jazz guitarist, became a big fan of Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, and other bop and/or post-bop guitarists, but it wasn't until he moved to Minnesota to attend the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul that Perri got into Gypsy swing. The person who turned Perri on to the music of Reinhardt and violinist Stéphane Grappelli was the late guitarist Mike Elliott, who had studied with bop guitar icon Johnny Smith. Perri's attraction to Gypsy jazz became so strong that he ended up making it his main focus. After moving back to Michigan, Perri formed the Hot Club of Detroit in 2003. The group's self-titled debut album was released by Mack Avenue in 2006, when Perri was overseeing a lineup that also included guitarists Colton Weatherston and Paul Brady, clarinetist Dave Bennett, acoustic bassist Shannon Wade, and accordionist Julien Labro -- and unlike Reinhardt's Hot Club of France Quintet, the Hot Club of Detroit didn't include a violin. Weatherston and Bennett left the Hot Club of Detroit after their first album, but it was Bennett's departure that did the most to alter their sound; Bennett was replaced by tenor and soprano saxophonist Carl Cafagna, whose solos made the bop and post-bop elements in their performances even more prominent. Mack Avenue released the Hot Club of Detroit's third album, It's About That Time, in 2010. In 2012, the group returned with Junction, featuring saxophonist Jon Irabagon and vocalist Cyrille Aimée. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi