Dave Stuckey knows how — how to put together a hot congenial swinging band, how to sing in a convincing heartfelt Thirties style that engages an audience, how to find rare material . . . how to put on a show that doesn’t require his dad’s barn (although he will work in barns for the right offer). He is comic without being jokey, and his friendly approach to the band and to us is heartfelt, not a series of ad-libs. He’s having fun, and we feel it also.
He showed off all these talents with the Hot House Gang at this year’s Redwood Coast Music Festival — the Gang being Josh Collazo, drums; Wally Hersom, string bass; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Nate Ketner, reeds; Marc Caparone, cornet; Dawn Lambeth, vocal. Here are seven tunes — count ’em, seven! — from the Gang’s first set.
Here’s melodious Dawn to sing a rare tune I associate with Henry “Red” Allen, which is always an asset, I’LL SING YOU A THOUSAND LOVE SONGS:
In the wrong hands, EXACTLY LIKE YOU can sound overfamiliar and thus dull, but not in these hands — those of Dawn and the Gang, helped immensely by Father Leyland’s righteous groove:
I confess that I’ve heard many versions of WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO that made me mutter to myself, “Not much,” but this performance gets at the heart of the ebullience of the Billie Holiday records of the Thirties, thanks to glorious playing by the band as well as Dawn’s choice to sing the song rather than the record. Those riffs, those riffs!
Hoagy Carmichael’s love song to New Orleans, of the same name, wistfully sung by Dave and eloquently by Marc:
Father Leyland’s rocking bouquet for IDA, which is so much music packed into three minutes:
The new dance they’re doing uptown, TRUCKIN’:
and, to close the set, the joyous affirmation of collective swing, a song that brings together Ivie Anderson and the Marx Brothers as well as the Hot House Gang. Who would complain?
If you learn that Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang are coming to your city, toss the dogs some dry food, break into the birthday fund, give up those plans to make the kitchen floor shine, and go. Joy like this is rare and not to be disregarded.
Thanks to Mark and Valerie Jansen of the Redwood Coast Music Festival for their generous embrace of soulful music. Be there May 7-10, 2020 . . . !
May your happiness increase!