When seeing the lineup for the 2022 Muskoka Music Festival, we quickly circled names of artists that we did not want to miss, which included a Sunday evening as part of the Music on the Barge series at Gull Lake Rotary Park with Toronto-based acoustic jazz-swing trio, Alex Pangman and the Sweet Hots. Alas, the late arrival of a potentially potent summer storm across Cottage Country quashed any plans for outdoors entertainment, sadly leaving us no opportunity to enjoy the sounds of yesteryear.
Fast forward to the 2023 Muskoka Music Festival, where curator Miranda Mulholland pulled a proverbial rabbit from her magic hat by booking this jazz trio once more, and on a rainy-but-thankfully-not-stormy Friday evening, Alex Pangman and her band would bring their music to the Muskoka wharf. Joining the JUNO-nominated vocalist were two of the finest musicians on the Canadian music scene – GRAMMY-nominee Drew Jurecka (vocals/violin/bandoneon) and guitar virtuoso Nathan Hiltz.
“Ladies and gentlemen, hello, it’s awesome to be at the Muskoka Music Festival,” Alex offered when welcomed to the stage. “Nice to see all of you out there. It’s good to see you have brought your vests and your plaid and your blazers. We’re gonna get going with some music from the 1920s and 30s, they called some of this music hot jazz.” And with a twelve-song set list, we quickly learned that hot jazz, by definition, represented some popular swing music from this particular era.
Performing many timeless tunes previously recorded by household names such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Bix Beiderbecke, the trio not only shared music from The Great American Songbook, they also transported us back to the days of swing and big band music with their stellar interpretations of such classics. The jazz may have been hot, but so were this trio – all evening! How cool was it to hear tunes originally recorded in 1918 (“On The Sunny Side Of The Street”) or from 1927 (“Black And Blue Bottom”)? Very cool!!!
Following a fantastic performance of “Singin’ The Blues (Until My Baby Comes Home),” a 1920 jazz composition by J. Russel Robinson, Con Conrad, Sam M. Lewis, and Joe Young, Alex took time to prepare her audience for the next offering. “You’ve been all very lovely and polite. We thought we’d play a little song that sort of begs the need to be a little less polite,” she stated. “It’s a little tune called Hot Nuts.” “Was that anyone’s nickname in high school?” added Drew, in perfect time to earn laughter from the crowd. With plenty of audience participation, the trio and their many backing vocalists combined to deliver a wonderful performance of this classic 1935 Lil Johnson number.
With a cover of the classic Louis Armstrong hit, “What A Wonderful World” – which Alex stated was a recent addition to their repertoire – the trio finished their 50-minute set with some extra swing in their steps, delivering both “I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down” and “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home.” And, taking their bows and offering their gratitude to the audience, we suddenly found ourselves back in 2023. If time traveling is a bucket list item for you, then check out Alex Pangman and the Sweet Hots – they will happily take you on such an adventure, and with no DeLorean necessary.
- Swing That Music
- On The Sunny Side Of The Street
- Tea For Two (vocals: Drew Jurecka)
- Singin’ The Blues (Until My Baby Comes Home)
- Hot Nuts
- The Sentimental Gentleman From Georgia
- The Kiss Of Fire
- Black And Blue Bottom (Instrumental)
- What A Wonderful World
- I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down
- Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home