The local jazz troupe pays tribute to legendary Django Reinhardt and his gypsy-jazz style during this week’s Free Fridays Concert Series at Bo Diddley Plaza.
When the crowd settles in at Bo Diddley Plaza tonight and listens to Hot Club de Ville during the Free Fridays concert, they might think they’ve been teleported to Paris.
For one thing, vocalist Patti Markoch will perform many of the songs in French. For another, the five string instruments backing her up will create a sound with a certain, how do you say, je ne sais quoi.
That distinct sound is what is known as gypsy jazz or, as it’s referred to in France, jazz manouche. It is the style of music that Jean “Django” Reinhardt, a Belgium-born guitarist and composer, made popular in the 1930s with the help of famed jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.
Reinhardt named his band Quintette du Hot Club de France. Several years ago, local jazz guitarist Marty Liquori thought it would be cool to pay homage to Reinhardt by naming his Gainesville gypsy jazz group Hot Club de Ville.
“It could have been Hot Club de Hogtown, but I got voted down on that one,” Liquori said with a laugh.
Hot Club de Ville will try to replicate the gypsy jazz sounds of Django Reinhardt, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and other composers when it performs on the Bo Diddley Plaza stage from 8-10 p.m. The concert is free.
Liquori wants everyone to enjoy every note, so he’s offered another suggestion.
“This is quiet, intimate stuff,” he said. “The closer to the stage you are, the better.”
Liquori added that it’s important for people to understand more about Reinhardt to fully appreciate his music
“He was burned in a fire, so he only had the use of two fingers on his left hand,” Liquori said. “Because of that, he couldn’t play the guitar like most people did, across the fingerboard. He had to go up and down really fast. It changed the style of guitar. Until then, guitars were playing mostly rhythm for other instruments.”
Thompson Fletcher, who also plays guitar with Hot Club de Ville, took Reinhardt’s disability to heart.
“When I first learned his solo, I practiced with two fingers,” he said. “I got to the point where I could pretty much play anything with two fingers.”
Hot Club de Ville typically uses four musicians when it performs Monday nights at Leonardo’s 706 on West University Avenue. For tonight’s Free Fridays performance, there will be six performers on stage: Markoch on vocals, Jacob Lawson on violin, Dave Forbes on upright bass and Liquori, Fletcher and Erik Abernathy on guitar.
“This will be the first time we’ve had three guitar players and one of the few times we’ve had a violin player and a vocalist at the same time,” Liquori said.
In addition to playing bass, Forbes is a world-renowned maker of violin bows. He flew back to Gainesville this week from Sweden, where he has been working on bows for the Swedish National Orchestra. Lawson, the violinist, recently returned from a gig in New York City.
Abernathy, at 20, is the youngest member of Hot Club de Ville. The Gainesville native is a UF music major.
Fletcher, 24, drives to Gainesville from his home in Cocoa Beach to perform in the active jazz scene. He started playing rhythm guitar with Hot Club de Ville five years ago when he was still a teenager.
“It’s been a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I learn so much from playing with them.”
He remembered playing for Hot Club de Ville the last time the band performed at Bo Diddley Plaza three years ago.
“It was great to see so many people get excited about the old-style music,” Fletcher said.
Meanwhile, Markoch’s vocals and showmanship provide a new dimension to the Hot Club de Ville show.
“It’s always fun playing with these guys,” Markoch told the Leonardo’s 706 audience before breaking into Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris.”
Markoch, also an accomplished flutist, first sang with Hot Club de Ville in early 2015 at the invitation of Liquori.
“I’ve loved every minute since Marty asked me to sing with them,” she said. “He’s spontaneous, he’s fun and he lets me be me. That’s what jazz is all about.”
During the daytime, Markoch teaches job skills to special needs students at Sidney Lanier Center. She’s also taught high school English in Ohio, Kansas, Missouri and Florida.
Markoch has an extensive musical background. She and her former husband were a stage duo for 13 years. In the early ’80s, they performed six nights a week at the Hilton at the Kansas City International Airport.
Earlier this week, Hot Club de Ville gave the dinner crowd at Leonardo’s 706 a taste of what to expect during tonight’s gypsy jazz show. (Liquori pointed out that it was May 16, which happened to be the 63rd anniversary of Django Reinhardt’s death at age 43.)
Liquori said the Bo Diddley Plaza crowd will be entertained tonight even if they weren’t jazz fans when the evening began.
“They’re going to hear a lot of different rhythms,” he said. “It would be classified under ‘world music.’ It’s very string-based, where the guitars create the rhythm instead of drums.”
He added: “We want everyone to walk away with a smile.”
— Noel Leroux
Marty Liquori is an accomplished jazz guitarist in Gainesville, but he’s known around the world for other memorable achievements. Read Gainesville Downtown’s profile of him at Marty Liquori All Jazzed Up.
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