Mississippi Rag / William J. Schafer (TCHC)

Category: Press

The Twin Cities Hot Club’s eponymous CD features a quartet: violinist Gary Schulte, bassist Matt Senjem, rhythm guitarist Reynold Philipsek and solo guitarist Robert Bell. They are all highly proficient and endowed with enough natural swing without a second rhythm man. Bell alone generates a powerful drive, well amplified by his compatriots. Schulte has a flamboyant and florid style, while Bell counters with a restrained and modest lead voice. Their repertory is firmly focused on the Hot Club of France book, but they freely interpret the warhorses. On uptempo numbers, they adopt an obvious two-beat rhythm accented by Bell’s elliptical, staccato picking. At times there is a Zen-like sparseness to the band’s texture, with silences operating as dynamic forces. The riff tune ‘Artillerie Lourde’ demonstrates this vividly, as does the string-jazz touchstone number ‘Minor Swing.’ Bell is also highly capable on the sentimental-lyrical numbers like Sweet Chorus’ and ‘Butterfly.’ A well-rounded and interesting band. -William J. Schafer