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Gypsy jazz and American swing

There's a reverence for the music of gypsy jazz artists Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli and their Quintette du Hot Club de France that is evident in Hot Club Sandwich's performances.

The Seattle-based string band captures the spirit of Reinhardt and Grapelli and the hot jazz of the '20s and '30s that was popular in Europe and America.

"Hot jazz is a descriptive title of a certain style of jazz," says Matt Sircely, mandolin player for Hot Club Sandwich, a band that builds on that tradition. "Our music is jazz played without drums or regular percussion instruments. It's as if every band member is a drummer, and the guitars provide a steady backdrop of rhythm that drives the music — and the dancing."

Reinhardt was born in France and learned guitar at an early age. He later became influenced by the music of violinist Joe Venuti, jazz guitarist Eddie Lang, trumpeter Louis Armstrong and composer Duke Ellington.

"Django introduced the European sensibilities and gypsy textures to American swing standards that came to define gypsy jazz — or swing jazz — which continues to evolve today," Sircely says.

Hot Club Sandwich will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at Mojo Rising, 140 Lithia Way, Ashland. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Along with Sircely, the acoustic sextet features guitarists Ray Wood, Greg Ruby and Kevin Connor, violinist Tim Wetmiller and bassist James Schneider.

Ruby is a former member of Pearl Django, a Washington state-based gypsy jazz quartet.

"Our band was founded when Greg and Tim met on a front porch in Olympia and realized they were working on the same tunes," Sircely says.

The members bring their own influences to their string arrangements and improvisations, including Latin American, bluegrass and Western swing.

"We started this band when we were all pretty young," Sircely says. "We were really excited about playing this music together, and we've developed our own approach.

"We've been fortunate enough to play at Django festivals where European gypsies and other artists have played astounding sets with a rhythmic feel that is very different from American players. While we're not copying them, we are influenced by that texture and drive," he says.

That sound is captured on Hot Club Sandwich's new CD "Green Room," according to Sircely. The full-length album was released this year on Modern Hot Records, a label formed by members of Pearl Django.

The CD includes several new compositions by members of the group and some unique treatments of classic tunes from around the world. Copies will be available at the concert at Mojo Rising.

"The real treat is that we've added Ray Woods to the mix," Sircely says. "He's been playing guitar since 1951. He was playing rock 'n' roll before 'Rock Around the Clock' came out.

"Every time we take a long trip with Ray, he pulls out his Jimmy Rogers-style Martin guitar and starts playing and telling us about all of the country and rock stars that he performed with in the '60s."

Hot Club Sandwich released another CD, "Digga Digga Do," in 2003.

Advance tickets to the show at Mojo Rising cost $10 and are available at the Music Coop in Ashland. Tickets are $12 at the door. The show is open to all ages. Call 324-7044.

The Seattle-based string band Hot Club Sandwich has developed its own approach to swing jazz. - hotclubsandwich.com