The name Hillbilly Jazz might sound like an oxymoron to some, but when you think about it, jazz and "hillbilly music" have made for a healthy combination from time to time.
The seminal country singer Jimmie Rodgers featured Louis Armstrong as a vocalist on some of his classic 1920s recordings, and Western swing came about when, in the 1930s, Bob Wills and others combined jazz with country and bluegrass. The term hillbilly music is now sometimes used to describe old-time music. An early tune that contained the word hillbilly was "Hillbilly Boogie" by the Delmore Brothers in 1946. Earlier, in the 1920s, there were records by a band called the Beverly Hillbillies.
Then, in the 1950s and early '60s, jazz and pre-rock pop influenced country stars like Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson as they drew on jazz, bluegrass, Western swing, blues, and country for inspiration. Improvisation is a high priority for Hillbilly Jazz, and a love of improvisation is one thing that jazz, bluegrass, and Western swing players have in common.
As acclaimed performers like music award-winners Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys can attest, jazz and hillbilly music can fit together compatibly with rockabilly and classic country. That's easy to say, but it's much harder to perform.
Big Sandy has spent a lifetime absorbing and interpreting the essence of vintage Western swing and rockabilly. His crack band excels at bringing multiple genres to the forefront while his international tours continue to promote his genre-bending music to the world.
When Jimmy Dale from OKC steps up to the microphone, his compositions draw from the best of the Western swing/rockabilly world, with perhaps a bit more swagger and volume. The end result is the same: a desperate need to get up and dance to the music.
Then there are the Moontones, a recent entry to the music scene in SoCal. The Moontones specialize in swinging dance tunes, with an array of styles covering jump blues, jazz standards and jive. They are a big band with horns and a female vocalist whose presence adds to their compelling style.
Taken altogether, this lineup of rockabilly, country and big band artists creates an afternoon of Hillbilly Jazz for a Sunday Soiree at Original Mike's in Santa Ana's Art District from 2-6 pm.
Don't miss it!