Hot Club of Cowtown, the Austin-based band that has grown to be the most globetrotting, hard-swinging Western swing trio on the planet, will perform at Smothers Theatre in Malibu at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5.
Hot Club of Cowtown has created an international cult following for its sizzling blend of hot jazz and Western swing inspired by its namesakes: "Hot Club" from Reinhardt and Grappelli's Quintette du Hot Club de France, and "Cowtown" from the influence of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.
With appearances on A Prairie Home Companion and at the Grand Ole Opry, the group has both critics and audiences alike raving. The Onion's A. V. Club wrote, "Hot Club of Cowtown sounds like it's spent the last 40 years in tiny rural clubs," while London's The Times remarked, "Unfussy and unpretentious, their blend of down-home melodies and exuberant improvisation harks back to a lost era of so-called western swing. When they plunge into 'Orange Blossom Special' your thoughts turn not so much to runaway trains as to a B-52 tearing up a runway."
The band's members are Elana James, fiddle and vocals; Whit Smith, guitar and vocals; and Jake Erwin, bass and vocals. Its latest album, Rendezvous in Rhythm, was released earlier this year on Gold Strike Records.
Elana James grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas, and began playing Suzuki violin at age four. It took her almost 20 years to decide between the violin and the fiddle, but in her mid-20s, after much soul-searching, she found her calling in American roots music and has never looked back.
In 2006, performing with the Hot Club of Cowtown, she had the honor of representing the US State Department as a musical ambassador throughout Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, playing everything from Texas hoedowns to American Songbook standards.
In 2005 she became the first dedicated female instrumentalist in Bob Dylan's touring band in more than 30 years, then toured with him in 2006 as the opening act for his US summer tour. In addition to tours and recording with Dylan, she has also recorded with Willie Nelson, Ray Price, and Merle Haggard, to name a few. In 2004 she was inducted, along with her Hot Club bandmates, into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.
Whit Smith was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, and spent his earliest years in New Canaan, Connecticut, and later Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Born to musical parents, Smith was exposed right away to a life of practicing and performing.
Born in 1974, upright bassist Jake Erwin hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, location of the legendary Cain's Ballroom, home of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. He took an interest in American roots music at an early age and decided to explore its variations through the sound of the double bass.
He has become one of the country's premier practitioners of percussive "slap bass," a style begun in early New Orleans jazz that continues through country, blues, and even rock 'n' roll today.
Erwin has been inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame (one of the youngest members ever) and been a featured performer (with the Hot Club of Cowtown) on A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, Later...with Jools Holland on BBC television, and at World Cafe Live, the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, the Smithsonian Institution, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Midsummer Night's Swing (also at Lincoln Center), to name a few, and he has toured with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, the Mavericks, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
In addition to the Hot Club of Cowtown, he has had the honor of recording and playing with some of Texas' finest performers and songwriters, including Wayne Hancock, Ronnie Dawson, the Asylum Street Spankers, Max Stalling, and Kim Lenz.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Center for the Arts website.