There are a lot of jazz ensembles in the Santa Cruz area, but there aren’t many like Hot Club Pacific, which has been together for more than a decade, and has had three steady gigs for the past six years, including the Crow’s Nest where they play every fourth Wednesday of the month.
For one thing, the group brings to mind what a classic swing jazz band sounded like to a 1950s audience. This isn’t bebop, and it’s not Dixieland. It captures a time when jazz was pop music, and usually had a lead clarinet player, not a sax or trumpet.
“When jazz was pop music, when jazz was as big as the Beatles and Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga, it was clarinetists that were in front of all the bands. When jazz shifted to the saxophone, it lost its popularity. I think it also lost its danceability,” says band leader Marc Schwartz. “You can dance to what we do. Most modern jazz bands, one could not say that about. We’re probably one of the last danceable jazz bands out.”
The band usually plays as a four-piece. The lineup rotates, but includes Schwartz on lead guitar, Jack Fields on rhythm guitar, Dale Mills on Clarinet, Nat Johnson on bass, Olaf Schiappacasse on drums and Bill Bosch on bass.
When the group started, they were a Django Reinhardt tribute band, but they gradually shifted into playing more classic American jazz standards, though they still do play some Reinhardt tunes and some sprinkling of the gypsy jazz sound.
“Our specialty is really the great American songbook. A lot of it’s the standard repertoire of the old-school jazz band. You won’t hear a lot of Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk. You’ll hear a lot of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Gershwin Brothers, a lot of Harry Warren, that sort of thing,” Schwartz says.
In addition to their regular spot at the Crow’s Nest, they play every Monday night at Soif Restaurant in Santa Cruz, and every third Thursday at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola.
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24. Crow’s Nest, 2218 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. $5. 476-4560