Live Review: Hot Club of Los Angeles at the Cinema Bar

Material: Ten years ago, five musicians from the Los Angeles area answered a call to action on Facebook regarding a jam session based on the music of a legendary gypsy jazz musician, Django Reinhardt.  What came next was a brotherhood of a lifetime, two albums, a headlining spot at DjangoVegas back in the Summer of 2021, and a decade-long residency at the Cinema Bar in Culver City.  Where their brand of Italian pop, bal musette, Romani music, and Jazz have made them a mainstay amongst the locals. In fact, their live performance of cover songs like “Tchavolo Swing” often prompts many of their attendees to sing-a-long and accommodate the band with gleeful shouts “opa” for the duration of the composition.  

 Musicianship: Music by Hot Club of Los Angeles primarily consist of instrumental sections, with occasional lead vocals by Jake Bluenote, Carl Byron, and Jim Doyle. In addition to singing songs like “Swing 48” in English, the trio of vocalists often engages their audience members with lyrics in French, Russian, and Roma languages. It’s a notion that engaged the crowd during their first live performance of the new year. The band members communicate constantly before and after each song, which allows them to take a fluid approach to the setlist and change the direction of their live presentation at any given time from gypsy jazz to swing. 

Performance: Hot Club of Los Angeles performed a combination of original compositions and cover songs during their show.  Although the five-piece band improvised a large portion of their setlist, they didn’t veer off from the framework from their most recent LP when it came to the performance of songs like the title track and “Black Eyes” a gypsy jazz song with Italian classic guitar chords from Josh Workman and standout bass tabs from Paul Eckman. After a brief discussion about what song to play next, the drummer’s voice would emerge from the murmur by counting in his bandmates. Among many things, this made Jim Doyle crucial to the band’s timing and structure throughout the duration of their hour and a half show.

Summary: The ensemble managed to successfully pack a plethora of their musical influences into one night of entertainment. Carl Byron embodied that notion by playing multiple instruments, providing lead vocals from time to time, and speaking to the audience members in French.  His standout performance on the accordion meshed quite well with the rhythmic section as the band played a jazz standard called “Avalon.” Overall, this performance was a tribute to the jazz musicians who pioneered the sub-genres that brought them together as friends, nearly a decade ago.

Contact: carlbyron@aol.com

Web: hotclubofla.com

Players: Carl Byron, vocals, accordion, piano; Jake Bluenote, vocals, guitar, banjo; Jim Doyle, vocals, drums; Paul Eckman, upright bass