Hot Club of Cowtown - Hot Jazz and Western Swing


Photo credit: Ryan Saul
America's Premiere
Hot Jazz & Western Swing Trio
"An arsenal full of technique and joy."
- Jon Caramanica, New York Times
  • “This trio’s stylistic genesis–as well as title–stems from the realization that the great heritage of strings (guitars and violins) originates mutually with the Manouche gypsies of France and the no-less virtuosic hillbilly pickers and fiddlers of Oklahoma and Texas….Together for over 15 years and a dozen albums, the threesome of high-heeled violinist Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin showed from the beginning that jazz and country music could exist together on the same page, a highly commendable achievement if ever there was one.”

    -Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal

  • “The timing, swing, and the chemistry of these three virtuoso musicians…is a joy to behold”

    -Guitarist Magazine

  • “[Elana’s voice] just flows with 1930s wonderment, it has an underlying sexiness that draws the listeners in until each and every one is caught in her musical spell…”

    -David Knowles, Maverick Magazine

  • “The hot jazz is what Hot Club do best, and this is a …band I once said I could listen to forever. That still stands.”

    -Duncan Warwick, Country Music People

  • “Unfussy and unpretentious, their blend of down-home melodies and exuberant improvisation harks back to a lost era of so-called western swing. When they plunge into Orange Blossom Special your thoughts turn not so much to runaway trains as to a B-52 tearing up a runway.”

    -Clive Davis, The Times (London)

  • “One of the finest performances by a visiting American country act I’ve witnessed for a very long time… they pretty much lifted the roof [off of the Black Box in Belfast] a couple of months back…a pretty much perfect country trio at the very top of their game.”

    -Ralph McLean, The Belfast Telegraph

  • “Perhaps the first thing one notices when listening to the Hot Club of Cowtown is its lack of irony, self-consciousness and forced hipness in embracing a style of music that so easily lends itself to such things…Stylistically, the band steps out from the shadow of its influences to become more than a faithful retro band that likes to raise its tempo every now and then. It’s writing more of its own songs and varying its delivery… conscious always that above all else, the music is for dancing and an old-fashioned good time.”

    -Neil Strauss, New York Times

  • “…Spirit, originality and skill that would surely have impressed Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt back in the 1930s.”

    -Robin Denselow, The Guardian (London)

  • “Cynics could say that they play hick-jumping with jazz sophistication, or jazz sweetness with hoedown grit. Either way, they scoop off the best parts of both styles, and are a supremely entertaining combo.”

    -Martin Longley, Coventry Telegraph (UK)

  • “This Austin-based western swing/jazz trio–violin, guitar and upright bass –will bring even the tamest audience to its feet. Plus, instrument aficionados will drool over the 1925 Gibson acoustic, 1937 Gibson amp and all the other classic gear that helps to keep Cowtown hot and hoppin’.”

    -Chicago Tribune

  • “Would that any night of hot jazz and western swing could be as satisfyingly entertaining as this minimally outfitted (there are but three of them) party band par excellence.”

    -Bernard Zuel, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

  • “Austin trio Hot Club Of Cowtown sounds like it’s spent the last 40 years in tiny rural clubs. The group’s old-fashioned mixture of Western swing and hot jazz leaves all the irony at home, and what’s left is a refreshingly sweet-natured, accomplished, old-school treat, mixing the perky rhythms of swing masters like Bob Wills with the European gypsy music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.”

    -The Onion

  • “The young band distinguishes itself by its technical musicianship and vast acreage of diverse styles alone, but it seals the deal on stage, subtly and methodically casting aside the audience’s daily worries and levitating the room into a dreamy salon of carefree abandon. Even the heartbreak songs are served sunny-side up.”

    -Derek Raymaker, Toronto Globe & Mail

  • “I doubt that many rock bands expend more energy in their playing, but what I admire most here is the unified point of view: a nostalgic love of western swing, big-band crooning, ragtime, even jazz improvisation.”

    -Marc Mickelson,

  • “Smith’s fretwork conjures up Reinhardt’s energetic stint with Duke Ellington, while [James] exudes pure countrified fiddle goodness.”

    -David Lynch, Austin Chronicle

  • “Working in such tradition, the Hot Club of Cowtown can burn, playing fast and furious driving rhythms at break-neck pace, and the wild abandon of Whit’s fleet-fingered solos improvised over dangerous changes can leave a listener slack-jawed and winded.”

    -Baker Rorick, Guitar Magazine

  • “Their sly mix of hot licks and cool vocals remains equally driven by the twang of Texas roadhouses as the gypsy string jazz of Reinhardt and Grappelli.”

    -Eli Messenger, Country Standard Time

  • “…Infusing classic pop and jazz tunes with plenty of string-band verve.”

    -Mike Joyce, Washington Post

  • “If rosin were flammable, violinist Elana [James] would be charged with arson.”

  • “While its repertoire and style draw from classic western swing and hot violin/guitar jazz of the Parisian 1930s and ’40s, it’s one of the most original groups on the Americana circuit, deserving of attention both live and on record.”

    -Craig Havighurst, Nashville Tennessean

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