Highland Hotclub has very recently started playing at the new Blue Note Nite. We were lucky enough top speak to them about the the night, the band and future plans.
Stephen McKeand…… I am obsessed with all things guitar and it seems anyone who is anyone has been influenced directly or indirectly by Django Reindhart. So, it was inevitable I should seek out his work. Django took the New Orleans Jazz of Louis Armstrong & fused this with Parisian musettes and European folk music to create Gypsy Jazz. When you first hear these scratchy records with those scary licks, it’s easy to see that Django was the first guitar hero and his music sounds as fresh today as ever. I needed to gather a band around me if I was to pursue this musical style.
I then found Howard on violin and we played together as a duo for a wee while. The signature sound of gypsy music is the driving rhythm, called ‘la pompe’ and we needed to add a rhythm guitarist. Ross Marquis, one of my ex-students who I subverted and subtly influenced onto the dark path of gypsy jazz joined us. The only missing element now was some bottom end, which was supplied by Evelyn, my lovely wife…..’s left hand on the piano.
And lo…..Highland Hotclub dragged itself from the primordial ooze.
How do you pursue your aim of “exploring the virtues of popular music culture from across the multiverse”?
There are only 2 x types of music…. music you like and music you don’t. We tend to label and compartmentalise music into genres, and this is to the detriment of all concerned. Jazz can be the freest form of music and we’re happy to take latin rhythms combined with harmonies from the Great American song book, Eastern European Klesmer violin and high octane guitar. All this is played with a great swing.
So at one of our gigs, you’ll hear anything from bossa nova, tango, country swing, rock, pop, classical all served up in a jazz melting pot. We hope our ‘kitchen sink’ jazz is fully inclusive and our ears are always open.
Can you tell us how you are feeling about Highland Hotclub’s new Blue Note Nite in Inverness?
The Blue Note Nite is held on the last Friday of every month – Upstairs in the Wine & Tapas Bar (La Tortilla Asesina) Castle Street, Inverness. The main ethos has created a local venue where we can play and secondly that there is a forum for all types of jazz. We hope to bring jazz-heads out of the woodwork, encourage local musicians and bring in special guests. It is already very well attended and we have been streaming live web casts via Stageit.com thanks to local music promoter & DJ Rob Ellen. We hope it will continue to grow and grow.
What are you plans for the future?
We are currently mixing our first album which we expect to release in October/November 11. Therefore, we will be seeking venues to promote it – you can never have too many launch parties! We would then hope to take the show on the road in the early part of next year. Having played a few festivals this summer (including Belladrum & Jocktoberfest) and consumed far too much beer, we hope to play many more next Summer!
In the meantime, we have been collaborating with several local artists to feature in our Blue Note Nite which keeps things fresh and fun for our audience. We will endeavour to play as best we can and make sure everybody has a good time.
If people have not heard you before, what song would you recommend that they listen to, and why?
Swing 08 has become a signature tune for the band and is one of our own compositions. It features a driving rhythm, propulsive bass lines & guitar pyrotechnics all played at the frantic pace of a runaway train. This more or less sums up the more fiery side of gypsy swing.
Highland Hotclub are:
Lead Guitar/Vocals – Stephen McKeand
Violin – Howard Swindells
Rhythm Guitar – Ross Marquis
Piano – Evelyn McKeand
By Chris Lemon
The Blue Note Nite is next on 30th of September · 19:30 – 22:30, entry £5 for details contact Duncan at the Tapa’s bar on 01463 709809
Thanks to Highland Hotclub