Motor City Cribs

May 12, 2010 at 12:00 am

This guy Evan Perri is your basic Grateful Dead-loving, computer-hacking, gaming nerd who's a Django Reinhardt nut. He's also the leader and a guitarist in Hot Club of Detroit, a surprisingly great gypsy jazz group. 

Quick backstory: Perri got into playing guitar through his jam band heroes, including the Dead, Phish and the Allman Brothers. While attending McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minn., a professor hipped him to Reinhardt. Transfixed by the timeless swing and energy of Reinhardt's music, Perri saved up for a gypsy guitar and taught himself Reinhardt's songbook.

Upon returning to Detroit, he formed the Hot Club of Detroit, which quickly landed on Mack Records. For Hot Club's third album — It's About That Time — Perri says the band is "trying to push the boundary of gypsy jazz," and reinvent it. And given the album's title, part of this genre reinvention includes using unusual time signatures. In fact, Hot Club tackles Mingus and Chopin and throws some Pat Martino-inspired electric guitar into the mix (Reinhardt, you'll note, didn't take up electric guitar until shortly before his death in 1953). 

Perri's also on the receiving end of a major guitar-player acknowledgement: Manouche Guitars will introduce its own Evan Perri model. 

When not teaching himself Reinhardt's catalog, Perri can be found in his Grosse Pointe Park apartment, which is full of classic French café poster art (and one giant Hendrix poster), teaching himself computer code. 

By day Perri is a system administrator for the gaming site Bad Ass Wankers. Really. When asked about how he landed in that line of work, Perri grins: "I used to hack the code of games I was playing so I could do things like go through walls, which led to [another company] asking me if I wanted to work for them. So now I get paid to make sure people aren't cheating."

Hot Club of Detroit's CD release party is 9:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14, at  Cliff Bell's, 2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543; $12 admission.

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