According some serious-looking online research, the average temperature in Spokane, Washington is 48.05 degrees Farenheit.  So you know my title is not, strictly speaking, true as a statement about climate.


But there are kinds of heat one can’t measure with a thermometer, as JAZZ LIVES readers know.  I know Spokane as the birthplace and early proving grounds for some serious artists: Harry Lillis Crosby, Mildred Rinker Bailey, and her brother Al.  Put them all together and you have a sizable chunk of twentieth-century creativity in fine music.  But they run the risk of being forgotten, which is sad.

I was thus amused and pleased to hear from Garrin Hertel, swing guitarist and cultural crusader, who wrote me (he’s very articulate, so I’ll let you read his words):

I’m emailing to send you a press release for a project I’m starting here in Spokane with my band Hot Club of Spokane. While the band name probably brings to mind Django Reinhardt, we’re actually more in tune with the original Hot Club of France. That is to say, we’re less concerned about being just like Django, and more concerned with keeping traditional jazz, swing, and blues alive and well.

So, with that in mind, we’re recording a CD aimed at celebrating our local jazz icons – Bing Crosby, Mildred Bailey, and Al Rinker. Most people in Spokane, sadly, have never even heard of Mildred Bailey or Al Rinker. And as you’ll see in our Kickstarter video (which is short – 3min for the main message) – many people in Spokane couldn’t even name a Bing Crosby tune that wasn’t associated with Christmas.

[But] Jazz lives in Spokane, even though the jazz lives that were so influential a century ago have faded. We want to help light up our community again, and you know, play some great music.

I was curious about the video, so I clicked here. I was enlightened although only a little dismayed by the absence of Crosby-recognition in this century.  (The collective memory resembles a drop of water in a hot cast-iron skillet, but I digress. Collective ignorance is much more durable.)  But I was intrigued to learn more about Al Rinker as a composer, and any project that brings more attention to Mildred is just fine with me. The Hot Club of Spokane is also offering a free collection of five Christmas songs for your listening and dancing pleasure here: they are a limber medium-sized group with their own personality, which always pleases.  I asked Garrin about the musicians in the HCS, and he sent me a list — although they often work as combinations of six, seven, or eight: Rachel Aldridge, Abbey Crawford (vocal); Michael Harrison (trumpet); David Fague (tenor); Christopher Moyer (tenor, alto, bari, bass, and clarinet); Robert Folie (alto, bari); Steve Bauer (lead guitar); Don Thomsen, Aaron Castilla (fiddle); Eugene Jablonsky, Kim Plewniak (string bass); Mark Stephens (drums); Garrin Hertel (rhythm guitar).  I hope you’ll feel motivated to investigate and support this project, and if you can’t, spread the word about the Hot Club of Spokane and the good sounds they create.
May your happiness increase!


5 responses to “GETTING HOT IN SPOKANE

  1. I investigated, and I am truly enjoying this group. Thank you Nephew. A nice selection of Christmas music,,Some great harmony too!

  2. Julia Rinker-Miller

    Hello Michael … Garrin Hertel just sent me a link to your blog, with my loving the opportunity to write a note of supportive recognition. As Alton Rinker’s daughter and Mildred (Rinker) Bailey’s neice … it’s like a special gift from Santa, these last days of 2014, to watch the veil slowly being lifted – allowing us to take a peek at Spokane’s rich musical heritage from times past. So kudos to Garrin on all fronts for all that!
    As a studio session singer, myself, in NY and LA for decades (my grandkids think THEY discovered “Three’s Co.” – in syndication for years with my singing its theme song) … I’ve had so many artists (Crosby, Sinatra, Clooney among many) approach me on countless sessions, shows and sound stages – remarking on how Mildred Bailey deeply influenced their original approach to phrasing and rhythm. Even our last living monarch of jazz singing – the great Tony Bennett – can be quoted in a recent interview for a new film-doc (“Rumble” from ReZolution Pictures, featuring Native Americans who’ve contributed to America’s mainstream music; 2016 release date scheduled on PBS) saying: “In my life, she [Mildred] was IT. I said, I want to learn how to sing like HER!” Yes, as heretofore not readily known or necessarily – accepted – by many stewards of Jazz history in this country … my aunt and father were both born on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation outside of Tekoa … soaking up much of their mother’s Indigenous musical culture and – unknowingly – infusing it into their offerings as artists.
    Professional back-up singers like myself thrive within a narrow and, by nature, exclusive corridor of the music industry. I’ve experienced it as a protected, rather personal space that’s allowed me to quietly enjoy basking in the musical legacy of my father behind the scenes (as opposed to under klieg lights) all these years as well. It’s been an eye-opening journey to observe how my dad’s path out of Spokane touched so many amazing artists (in all quarters of the business) along the way. So – now – how joyous IS it to watch the energy building – anew – around a ‘once upon a time’ moment in Spokane, WA … where so much musical jazz/pop ‘originality’ was birthed in our nation! Guess the REAL stuff doesn’t go so gently into that good night after all ~ Holiday Happiness To You – and – To All … Julia Rinker

  3. I am honored to read your words and experience the feeling behind them. Gratefully yours, Michael

  4. Julia Rinker-Miller

    Thank you – Michael … so very lovely for you to say … Julia

  5. Whenever I get a chance to hear Garrin’s group, I hear the joy and exuberance of traditional jazz. It just puts a big grin on your face. I also enjoyed reading Julia Rinker’s story about Al and Mildred. It reminds us that this wonderful music is not ancient history, even though the individuals have passed on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s