Originally a five piece band, the Hot Five contained trombone, reeds, trumpet, banjo and bass. Reed player, Janet Shaw would occasionally switch to piano when the music required it. More recent generations of the Hot Five incorporate piano and drums.
The group’s founders Towers and Shaw love to uncover unusual or forgotten songs from the 1920s and 1930s. Their 12 albums are a feast for listeners who enjoy items like "Baby Me," "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night," "I Double Dare You" or "Peoria."
The St. Andrews Church concert is a bit of an exception in that all the hymns are familiar to most folks. That fact does not make this release any less exciting. The St. Andrews performance is full of enthusiasm from the first ring of the banjo to the final notes of "Just a Closer Walk." Over the years, the Hot Five has seen a number of fine trumpeters including Malcolm Higgins, Brian Graville and Mick Collins. This CD introduces a young Slovakia-born player, Andrej Saradin. Saradin is both innovative and energetic. We loved his contribution to the authentic New Orleans sound of this album.
Of course, Janet Shaw and Brian Towers exude the Crescent City flavor with everything they play. Over the years, they played to New Orleans audiences frequently prior to the city’s recent tragedy. Towers toured Scandinavia in 2004 with New Orleans trumpeter, Gregg Stafford and the Danish band, New Orleans Delight. Towers and Shaw are also members of Toronto’s "Magnolia Brass Band," a larger marching band playing events from funerals to picnics.
In this writer’s humble opinion, the Hot Five Jazzmakers’ first gospel project at St. Andrews Church compares favorably with such albums as "Swedish Hymns" by the Gota River Jazzmen and New Orleans Delight’s CD featuring Lee Gunness. It’s a spirited endeavor by a very hot little band.