Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Remi Harris, the Hot Club Trio, and every kind of music

There’s more to Remi Harris and the Hot Club Trio than reproducing the sounds of the original Hot Club, as Victoria Kingham found out when she spoke to Remi ahead of their gig at the Kino-Teatr on 20 April.

Remi Harris’s personal style is true to his music. Resplendent with flower-patterns, home-crafted jewellery, acoustic guitar, flowing hair, he looks every inch the romantic gypsy guitarist. But he is so much more.

The innovations of the 1930s Quintette du Hot Club de France (Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grapelli et al.) inform his current line of musical thought: he uses tunes he likes and often adapts them to the ‘gypsy’ idiom. His isn’t the first or last band to adopt this style, but his choice of numbers is intriguingly varied. 

He grew up, he told us, with a family record collection that included John Mayall, Jimi Hendrix, Genesis and Peter Green, but branched out into jazz territory as his musical taste matured. He comes to the Kino-Teatr with the Hot Club Trio: they will play a mixture of blues, gypsy jazz, and original compositions.

His first album (Ninick, 2014) exemplifies his diverse musical interests. It includes a couple of Django Reinhardt numbers along with Beatles, Judy Garland, Miles Davis/Charlie Parker, and originals. The following album (In on the 2, 2016) is even more varied: it contains a lovely blues-y version of Neil Young’s Old Man, a splendid Need Your Love So Bad (Peter Green), a couple of fabulous jazz ballads (Waltz for DebbyRound Midnight), a super-fast, skillfully-fingered version of Putting on the Ritz, and then Cissy Strut, part of the funk vocabulary of the last 50 years, which you’d certainly recognise when you heard it even if you don’t know its name.

Harris and fellow musicians Dave Small and Sean Dixon have played together since they were at school. Together they have just completed a tribute tour playing the music of Peter Green, one of Harris’ long-time musical heroes. He is not however confined to this one blues style: he loves Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, all the Delta Blues artists. 

Left to right: Chris Nesbitt, Tom Moore, Remi Harris

The trio he is bringing to Hastings (with Chris Nesbitt on rhythm guitar, Tom Moore on upright bass) is one that he feels is likely to be universally accessible. He is careful to consider his audience, and the familiar Hot Club style appeals to many who find modern jazz too abstruse. 

Technically he is extremely diverse. He has a collection of about 20 guitars, and asked which is his favourite he says he doesn’t really have one. All the guitars have different voices; the one he uses depends on the musical genre. He loves the acoustic because, obviously, “you can just get it out and play it anywhere.” But for blues he likes solid body electric guitars that have more sustain – “they sing, more like a vocal quality.”  His choice of guitar and style depend on music that he hears, loves, assimilates, and strives to perfect.

He has also published a number of specialist books (100 Gypsy Jazz  Guitar Licks, for example) which act as instruction manuals for guitarists, enabling them to improve their understanding of improvised passages, explaining his thought process. 

It’s a careful process. He extends careful thought to everything musical that he does. Accordingly his latest album, On Track (2022), has a sequence from Siren through Nuages to a short version of Led Zeppelin’s Rain Song. Siren is a tuneful abstract representation of a wartime siren on electric guitar, as he feels that Nuages, which follows, far from being a jolly interlude, is actually a sad reminder of World War II. (Written in 1939, it is often seen as Reinhardt’s response to the German occupation of France).

Harris’ version of Rain Song leads out from there, as the rainstorm resulting from the nuages. Serious thought also goes into his performances – the majority of venues he plays are non-specific, rather than for audiences favouring specialist genres, and the numbers he puts together in a live set include maybe two or three of his own among the more well-known ones, “to achieve a balance for as many people as possible to enjoy the show.”

By the end of this tour he hopes to have two complete albums, one electric blues and rock, the other he hopes ambitiously that the Hot Club Trio can record in the studio over just two days. “I use the Hot Club format or sound,” he continues “as a launch pad to bring in my other influences.” At the Kino-Teatr on 20 April we will be able to hear the accomplished result of years of careful listening and highly accomplished playing. It promises to be an exceptional concert. 


Remi Harris and the Hot Club Trio Saturday 20 April, 7.30pm. Kino-Teatr, 43-49 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0EG.

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Posted 19:54 Wednesday, Apr 10, 2024 In: Music & Sound

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