THE artist’s name didn’t sound familiar when the publicist mentioned it on the phone.
“Elana James,” he said in a hopeful tone.
Nope. Never heard of her.
“She used to play with Hot Club of Cowtown,” he added.
Oh, THAT Elana. Now we’re talking. I’m all ears, Mr. Publicist, because that Elana happens to be my favorite hot jazz and Western swing violinist. Plus, it doesn’t hurt matters that she’s extremely easy on the eyes. But I remember her as Elana Fremerman.
Well, it seems that Ms. Fremerman has changed her last name, for showbiz reasons, to James. I’ll have to kid her about that the next time I see her, which thankfully will be rather soon. Elana Fremerman — oops, sorry, I mean Elana James — returns to the Bay Area to headline the lovely Little Fox in Redwood City Thursday and March 5 at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. I’ll definitely be there.
The Hot Club of Cowtown was a great band while it lasted. In concert, the trio used to burn through hot jazz and swing numbers like nobody’s business. I still remember one gig at the Freight & Salvage that was so hot that the Berkeley Fire Department almost got called to the scene. The band was nearly as good on record, especially on 2002’s “Ghost Train.”
The last time I saw the woman formerly known as Fremerman was in March 2005 when she shared the stage with none other than Bob Dylan at the Paramount Theatre. The great Merle Haggard, who wasn’t so great in concert, also was on the bill. Even with two first-tier musical legends appearing that night, Elana stole the show with her killer violin work and undeniable enthusiasm as a member of Dylan’s band. That really says something about the magnitude of her talent.
The violinist, who is also a fine vocalist, is now stepping out and leading her own band — Elana James and Her Hot Hot Trio. And it’s another winner. Check out the songs that are available onhttp://www.elanamusic.com, and you’ll likely agree with my assessment. I particularly like the version of Duke Ellington’s “I’ve Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” (While you are there, also make sure to download the Hot Club of Cowtown’s take on Bryan Ferry’s “All I Want is You.”)
Fremerman. James. Whatever. This is one violinist that fans of Stephane Grappelli-style hot jazz won’t want to miss. For more information on the Little Fox show, call (650) FOX-4119 and for the Freight gig, (510) 548-1761.
One final note to Elana: Should you ever feel like changing your last name again, may this cheeky monkey of a music critic suggest Harrington?