You’ve heard of people dowsing for water — using a forked stick or a pendulum to discern where there’s water under the surface of apparently barren land. I think of Dave Stuckey as the modern swing equivalent. His skill is just as rewarding, for he finds the groove where other musicians or bands might not. Audiences, dancers, and players hear it and respond beautifully. I’d heard Dave and the Hot House Gang only once before in person, at a Saturday-night dance at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest (results here) and on the group’s debut CD (read my review here) but these pleasurable interludes made me incredibly eager to hear Dave and Co. at the 2019 “Sounds of Mardi Gras” in Fresno, California — a weekend I’ve just come back from. More about Fresno below.
Here’s one sweet convincing sample. Dave has a deep affinity for the music Henry “Red” Allen recorded in the Thirties, and PARDON MY SOUTHERN ACCENT by Matty Malneck and Johnny Mercer is one of those memorable tunes. Dave is joined by Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, reeds; David Aus (a newcomer, subbing this once for Carl Sonny Leyland) piano; Sam Rocha, string bass; Gareth Price, drums, and guest Riley Baker, trombone.
I video-ed everything Dave and the Gang created, and it was rather like a wonderfully unusual yet compelling blend of Fats, Wingy, Red Allen, Tempo King, Bob Howard, Putney Dandridge, Joe and Marty Marsala, Stuff Smith, Eddie Condon, and Django — with great riffing both afternoon and evening. They can play ballads as well as stomps, and the groove was something to behold: you could ask the dancers.
Mercer came by his Southern accent authentically, being a Savannah native.
A few words about Fresno. It was my first visit to that jazz festival and I’ll be back next year — not only because of the fine music and the convenience (everything was under one comfortable roof) but the pervasive geniality: much friendliness from everyone, from the waitstaff to the musicians and volunteers. Thanks to Linda Shipp, Alberto, and friends for making everyone so comfortable. And you can bet there will be more video evidence from the Hot House Gang and Bob Schulz and his Frisco Jazz Band (featuring Ray Skjelbred and Kim Cusack).
May your happiness increase!