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Hot Club Of Detroit: Junction

Dan Bilawsky By

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When the Hot Club Of Detroit's journey began, they followed the road that guitarist Django Reinhardt laid before them. They traveled the highways and byways of so-called "Gypsy Jazz," walking in the footsteps of their forefathers while picking up and exhibiting other influences and sounds along the way, and eventually reached a crossroad. Rather than choose a single path, the group decided to try them all out and Junction is the artistic byproduct of that decision.

Personnel adjustments, whether born of sad circumstances or the positive power of choice, are responsible for a good deal of the shake-up in this group's stylistic makeup. Saxophone renegade Jon Irabagon takes the place of Carl Cafagna, who removed himself from the equation in 2011, and bassist Shawn Conley replaces Andrew Kratzat Quartet, who sustained serious injuries in a car accident later that year. Saxophonist Andrew Bishop and vocalist Cyrille Aimee round out the lineup, appearing on three tracks apiece and adding volumes to the diversity of this material.

Cultural references abound from the get-go, with Irabagon naming his grooving lead-off track, "Goodbye Mr. Anderson," after a memorable Hugo Weaving line from The Matrix (Warner Bros, 1999). Pop powerhouse Peter Gabriel gets the next written nod ("Song For Gabriel"), though Irabagon's soprano saxophone and Julien Labro's harmonica-like accordina paint a picture that's more in-line with Bruce Hornsby than the sultan of "Sledgehammer." The odd-metered "La Foule" brings Aimee into the fold, as she delivers delightful vocals in French, and "Hey!" moves from a breezy, Nick Drake-like peace to a two-tenor duel that builds to a wonderful frenzy.

The appropriately-titled "Chutzpah" comes to life as an avant-garde noise number, but morphs into an exotic Franco-Moroccan dance. Labro's organ-like accordion casts a mournful cloud over "Messe Gitane," which features Bishop and Irabagon on clarinets and segues beautifully into "Django Mort." The accordionist proves to be the man of many faces, as he dons the mask of violinist and delivers string-like lines over an oom-pah-pah waltz ("Midnight In Detroit"). The zany "Puck Bunny," which features Bishop on bass clarinet and Irabagon on sopranino saxophone, is easily one of the highlights on the album and a chugging cover of Phish's "Rift," bearing traces of bluegrass music, brings things to a close.

The rhythm/lead guitar pairing of Paul Brady and Evan Perri tethers the Hot Club of Detroit's music to Reinhardt, but it's a long rope that connects the two. It leaves plenty of room for roaming and this outfit takes advantage of it throughout this highly pleasing album.

Track Listing: Goodbye, Mr. Anderson; Song For Gabriel; La Foule; Hey!; Chutzpah; Messe Gitane; Django Mort; Junction; Midnight In Detroit; Lonely Woman; Goodbye Mr. Shearing; Puck Bunny; Rift.

Personnel: Julien Labro: accordion, accordina; Andrew Bishop: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Evan Perri: guitar; Paul Brady: guitar; Shawn Conley: bass; Jon Irabagon: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet; Cyrille Aimee: vocals (3, 7, 10).

Title: Junction | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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