The Hot Club of LA revives the spirit of 1930s Paris in Culver City
Jazz was born in the U.S.A., but in the early 1930s the liveliest scene in the world was in Paris. While nightlife here was stifled by Prohibition, French crowds flocked to hear electrifying performances that mixed swing and blues with European traditional music and classical ideas. At the forefront was a brilliant band called the Hot Club du France that blazed a trail for “gypsy jazz” full of melodic and collaborative improvisations.
Gypsy jazz is rarely heard today — partly because it’s rare to find musicians with the skill and passion to play it — but it lives on every Monday night at The Cinema Bar in Culver City. That little watering hole has barely changed since it opened almost 70 years ago, and it’s a perfect setting for the band that calls itself The Hot Club of LA.
Acoustic guitarists Josh Workman and Jake Bluenote, accordionist Carl Byron, bassist Paul Eckman and drummer Jim Doyle prove that you don’t need electric instruments to create an electric atmosphere. The leads switch from instrument to instrument, melodies mutating and evolving as each piece goes on, and sometimes you can see from a player’s face or body language that they really didn’t expect what just happened.
There’s an extraordinary finesse here, and to see this sort of performance in a small club for no cover is simply amazing. If you know this music you will be thrilled to hear it performed with such dexterity and emotion; if you don’t know it, you should stop in and hear one of the world’s great musical traditions thriving under the radar in your own backyard.
— Richard Foss
The Hot Club of LA performs from 9 to 11:30 p.m. Mondays at The Cinema Bar, 3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. No cover. Visit thecinemabar.com or hotclubofla.com for weekly gig info.