L-R; Dan Pearce, Jim Stager, Barry Wahrhaftig, Joseph Arnold, Phyllis Chapell Photo by Howard Pitkow
The Hot Club of Philadelphia was started in 2001 by guitarist Barry Wahrhaftig. They are an acoustic ensemble, dedicated to playing 'Gypsy Jazz.' That's the term used to describe the music pioneered by the legendary original 'Hot Club of France Quintet,' which was led by guitarist Django Reinhardt and Violinist Stephane Grappelli. Django and Grappelli were attempting to do their own version of American 'Hot Jazz,' as played by stars like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. They used acoustic guitars, bass and violin, rather than horns and drums. Grappelli and Django added some French and Gypsy flavor and created a blend of music that is quite popular and accessible. The HCPhilly mixes the original style of the HCOF, along with their own modern influences.
The band performs as a trio, quartet, quintet, etc. There have been some changes in the line up through the years. Bassist Jim Stager has been with the group from the beginning. Joshua Machiz, Alexandre Hiele and Dylan Taylor all perform with the band frequently. Dan Pearce is the 2nd guitarist, and violinist Joseph Arnold is a key part of the group's recordings and shows, and clarinetists Bob Butryn and Paul Butler are also mainstays.
The band features vocalists Phyllis Chapell and Cecilia Ferneborg, and has also collaborated with Denise King. Barry also sings, and he'll add a Sinatra or Nat King Cole standard, in addition to songs of the 20's 30's & 40's.
The group has performed for a wide range of venues, including; The Kimmel Center's PIFA Festival, the area's first 'Diner en Blanc', The World Café Live, Sellersville Theater, WHYY-NPR, Musikfest-Bethlehem, Pastorius Park Summer Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival,
The Barnes Foundation & The Phila Museum of Art, to name a few.
Their first CD, 'Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,' 2010 was very well received. Their new release, 'Gypsy Routes', , features guest spots by Howard Alden, Titi Bamberger, Larry McKenna, Phyllis Chapell and Marty Grosz.
Here are some of the venues that they appear at frequently;
The Paris Bistro; http://www.parisbistro.net
Bowman’s Tavern; http://www.bowmanstavernrestaurant.com/index.php
Vesper Club; http://vesperphilly.com/
The Bookstore/Speakeasy Bethlehem, PA; http://www.bookstorespeakeasy.com/
The Saloon; http://www.saloonrestaurant.net/
They are available for private parties, weddings, concerts, Swing dances, house concerts, workshops, etc. Contact Barry at 215-380-2588, or email; Barwarren@aol.com, for more info.
Check out these other fine groups that are inspired by Django Reinhardt:
Club of NYC
of San Francisco
Barry Wahrhaftig, the lead guitarist of the HCPhilly now has a blog, www.GypsyJazzGuitarOnline.com with Gypsy Jazz Guitar lessons, transcriptions, interviews etc.
The Hot Club of Philadelphia, along with vocalist Phyllis Chapell performed at Philadelphia's first 'Diner en Blanc, in Aug 2011. The event was covered by WHYY Friday Arts, here's a link for the podcast; http://www.whyy.org/tv12/fridayarts/artoffood.html
The HCPhilly led by Barry Wahrhaftig has been doing workshops and jam sessions at Rollers Restaurant in Chestnut Hill, end us a note if you want more info. Paul is a big supporter of the HCPhilly, and the food and imported beer selection at his place is top shelf. http://www.rollersrestaurants.com/
Buy 'Bistro Fada'
Here is what Jazz Inside Magazine has to say
WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS –
Jazz Manouch 1909. Song
d’Automne; Exactly Like You; La Gitane; Someone to
Watch Over Me; Tchavolo Swing; Nuages; Nature Boy;
You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To; Chez Jacquet;
Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; While We’re Young
PERSONNEL: Joe Ellis, guitar; Bob Butryn, clarinet;
Jim Stager, bass; Barry Wahrhaftig, guitar; Joe
Arnold, violin; John Matulis, accordion, Howard
Alden, guitar; Denise King, vocals; Alex Siniavski,
guitar; Mark Campiglia, violin; Phyllis Chapell, vocals;
Rick Yescalis, guitar; Carlos Rubio, flamenco
guitar; Bob Butryn, flute; George Manney, conga;
Stan Slotter, trumpet; Dave Cianci, trombone
By Herbie Y. Gamura
The Hot Club of Philadelphia was founded in
2001 by guitarist Barry Wahrhaftig and violinist
Mark Campiglia. Joining them are acoustic bassist
Jim Stager and rhythm guitarist Barry Wahrhaftig, as
well as plenty of special guests, including the legendary
Howard Alden on seven string guitar. This Gypsy
Jazz outfit is dedicated to “playing and preserving the
music of Django Reinhardt while adding their own
style in the process.”
One is immediately struck by the easy, but
deep swing that comes out of Bob Butryn’s clarinet
(he’ also a swing dancer!) on the medium-tempo
first track, “Song d’Automme.” One can’t help but
be taken by the way these players make so much out
of so little. Two Rhythm guitars and a bass keep the
time and groove with some simple but well crafted
changes in a minor key, as the improvisers outline
them with the most essential notes, while making
beautiful and singable melodies for the listener to
relate too at all times.
Throughout the CD, new players come and go,
such as Accordion player John Matulis for the track
“La Gitane,” giving it a unique texture. This song is
in a triple meter, as the bassist plays on one and the
guitars on two and three, giving it a waltz vibe. I can
easily visualize a dance floor in France with numerous
couples brimming with life. Barry Wahrhaftig
shows that he is no Django clone on this track. His
right hand has a completely different approach.
Undoubtedly one of the big highlights of this
disc is “Someone to Watch Over Me,” sung by Denise
King. She infuses plenty of personal experience in her
rendering, as the song builds gradually. It begins as a
duet, with the beautiful solo guitar work of Howard
Alden, before the bass joins, and then the lead guitar
“Nuages” is another nice interpretation, featuring
vocalist Phyllis Chapell. Wahrhaftig takes a particularly
memorable guitar solo on this track, departing
from the classic gypsy vocabulary with some very
unique lines, and plenty of emotion. The listener will
be happy to hear Bob Butryn return for a gorgeous
“Nature Boy” will also be a pleasant surprise to
the listener with its Latin vibe, complete with flute,
conga, and Flamenco guitar from Carlos Rubio.
Wahrhaftig trades solos with Rubio and it a treat to
hear two different styles playing together on the same
song. Denise King joins the group for the head out.
And then another surprise – Electric guitar
and horns! For the penultimate tune, “Wrap Your
Troubles in Dreams,” the band renders it with a classic
swing with arranged parts for trombone, trumpet
and clarinet, and a swinging drum groove with the
hi-hat on two and four behind Denise King’s vocals.
We go from the Hot Club to Preservation Hall, and
it is a nice departure before returning for the closer,
“While We’re Young.”
The Hot Club of Philadelphia may be dedicated
to playing the music of Django Reinhardt, but as advertised,
they add their own voices and mentalities into
the mix, and often infuse Latin and more traditional
swing styles into the mix. All of the members have impeccable
chops and unwavering musicality. If you’re in
the Philadelphia area, be sure to seek them out.