Jon Irabagon adds a series of new twists, turns and new ideas to the fourth album from Hot Club of Detroit. His arrival, however, signals a period significant change for the Django-inspired gypsy jazz group.
Both original saxophonist Carl Cafagna and bassist Andrew Kratzat were both missing from the sessions for Junction, due August 14, 2012, from Mack Avenue Records. Cafagna has left because of family obligations, while Kratzat and his fiancee are still recovering from being seriously injured in a July 2011 automobile accident. The album is dedicated to them.
Stepping in is Irabagon, who we’ve raved about before as a member of the punk-jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing, and fellow newcomer Shawn Conley on bass. (Irabagon makes his presence felt from the first, as the Hot Club tears through his original composition “Goodbye Mr. Anderson.”) The group is also joined on three tracks by Andrew Bishop on reeds (he adds tremendous dialogues on “Hey!” and “Puck Bunny”) and, for the first time, by a singer — Cyrille Aimee, who was born in Django Reinhardt’s hometown.
Still, the central voices remain those of accordionist Julien Labro and guitarist Evan Perri, co-creators of the Pat Metheny-inflected reverie of the title track, the waltzing balladry “Midnight in Detroit,” and “Song for Gabriel,” named for the prog legend Peter Gabriel. And even in a period change, the Hot Club of Detroit has stuck to its guns on performing without a drummer — something that’s always given their music such a diaphanous atmosphere.
Elsewhere, Junction moves from the tempo-shifting John Zorn-style eruptions of “Chutspah,” to quieter ruminations on passages during “Django Mort” and “Goodbye Mr. Shearing,” to interesting an interesting reimagining of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” for vocals. “Song for Gabriel,” by the way, is not the only nod to modernity from a band with such an old-world feel: Labro and Perri also close the album with a terrific interpretation of the epic 1993 composition “Rift” by Trey Anastasio of Phish.