Hot House West
Hot House West = Duke Ellington + Dizzy Gillespie
Prepare to lay back, lift your feet up and soothe out into the antique flavors that Hot House West have served up in their debut, self-titled release. This blast from the past is gold from the first measure to the last. Four arrangements of favorites from the likes of Django Reinhardt and Isham Jones bring the ’30s back to life in such a spectacular way that I couldn’t take this EP off of repeat for a week.
There’s just such an easy flow to every song. Acoustic guitar provides a driving pulse and rock-solid rhythm for ridiculous jazz solos. Soft woodwinds accented by tight trumpet and fat trombone lines come together into a melting pot that can only be described as joyful. Seriously, if these guys weren’t smiling when they recorded this, I would be baffled—because I absolutely can’t wipe the grin off of my face while listening to any of these quick, quality tracks. Lyrics aren’t the focus of this fine-and-dandy showcase. Instead, guitar licks I couldn’t believe, trumpet melodies that nail exactly the right chords and comping that keeps every moment interesting—but never distracting—create the best record I’ve heard so far this year.
At the end of every song on this release, I get a little sad—not because the phrases aren’t clean and catchy as hell, but because I just want it to keep on coming. I have only one gripe with this EP, and it’s completely unwarranted—it seems like it’s over in a heartbeat. A full listen takes about 20 minutes, at which point I’m always so hooked that I spin it all the way through again. It’s the kind of album that brings the mood in any room up. Hot House West have created an experience that’s so easy and uplifting that if I could have this EP playing in my ears all day, I wouldn’t ever be able to stop smiling.
The transitions are flawless, the pulse never drops and the sweet lines keep on flowing. My favorite track, “No Moon At All,” features top-notch solos from all the lead voices and listens like a teaser for the best kind of show. I can’t wait to hear more from these talented musicians. If you’re interested, hear them live on Wednesdays at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, and make sure not to miss this superb release. –Alex Blackburn