The Hogtown Syncopators The Hogtown Syncopators

Long before fusion was assigned as a music genre, musicians of the ’30s were cross-fertilising jazz, blues, old-time country, European classical forms and traditional folk music, ultimately spawning a wide variety of musical subsets, including bebop, rhythm and blues, Western swing, bluegrass, conjunto and more. With their swinging playing and inherently good taste in songs, be it a cover, an elegantly arranged traditional or an original, the Hogtown Syncopators invoke the ’30s era beautifully on their self-titled debut. This Toronto-based ensemble, comprised of violinist/vocalist Drew Jurecka, guitarists/vocalists Jay Daley and Mike Danley, James Thomson on double bass and vocalist/percussionist Terra Hazelton, are a club favourite known for impeccable musicianship (the members can name check Jeff Healey, Jane Bunnett, Rob McConnell and the Backstabbers amongst their employers) and good times. Working with producer Don Kerr, this debut recording captures the excitement of their live performances, the added lustre of Kerr’s sonic palette making the recording sparkle. There are many highlights amongst the 15 tracks. Ethel Waters’ "Heebie Jeebies” is arranged as a vocal harmony showcase, à la the Mills Brothers. Another Waters track, swinging jazz tune "Dinah,” is Hazelton’s finest vocal turn. Jurecka flies over the strings on the original hot jazz instrumental "L’Coq du Neige,” while his smart arrangement of Brahms’ "Hungarian Dance No. 5” displays his and the rest of band’s instrumental prowess. If there are any missteps, it might be including too many lounge jazz ballads (four), which sound slightly out of character with the rest of the CD. That said, they’re performed beautifully. (Independent)