A lesson in swing was provided by the three acts touring under the header “The Joint Is Jumpin’.” Clarence Gatemouth Brown tackles a multitude of strains of American music created in the past 60 years; Dan Hicks peppers his Texas-influenced style with a witty repartee; and the Hot Club of Cowtown re-creates the sound of old 78s with fiddle, guitar and bass.
Since the tour began, 80-year-old Gatemouth Brown has released one of the most freewheeling albums of his career, “Timeless” (Hightone), and been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, for which he has refused to seek treatment. Looking a little more gaunt than usual, Brown didn’t mention his health situation, choosing instead to focus on the blues, jazz and country music he grew up on in Texas and Louisiana that has filed his songbook for 57 years.
Brown plays in a unique open-handed style that allows him to strum rhythm and pluck leads simultaneously; he delivered a dramatic and rustic take on “Unchained Melody,” an emotional highlight of the night.
Brown had fun on the fiddle, playing a medley of ancient country classics in the midst of a collection of 12-bar blues and swing tunes influenced or written by Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Like so many of his perfs, it’s a curious mix on paper, but a wondrous quilt onstage. Joe Krown brings a wonderful New Orleans touch on the keyboard that maintains a nice degree of funk.
Hicks, too, has released a new album since the Joint Is Jumpin’ tour visited Southern California (Daily Variety, Sept. 16, 2003), though he performed only one track from the fine “Collected Shorts” (Surfdog). The San Francisco marvel delights at every turn, whether roaming through his classics “I Scare Myself” and “Canned Music” or stepping lightly on Tom Waits’ “The Piano Has Been Drinking.” The gypsy violin and mandolin of Richard Chan gave the evening the expected sultry feel.