Hot House Jazz Band: Nostalgic sound, inspiring fun

by McKenna Cardwell

photo by Madelynne Nore

What starts as a tap of the toe, moves to a stomp of the foot. Next, a shake of the hip, and before you know it, the beat has charmed you into swing dancing with a stranger.

When the horns blare and the upright bass bumps, jazz is nearly undeniable.

This classic scene imagined straight from the 1920s, can be found in today’s Bellingham through the musical stylings of the Hot House Jazz Band.

Pace Rubadeau has been playing trumpet for over 20 years. About a year and a half ago, he moved to Bellingham from Portland where he had regularly organized community swing events.

“I saw how traditional jazz seemed to bring people from all sides of the scene together and was pretty keen on doing something like that here in Bellingham,” Rubadeau said. “There’s something about that type of nostalgic sound that unites people of all generations.”

The music of the Hot House Jazz Band is focused in this traditional styling of jazz, which can be simpler in structure than the newer, modern version, Rubadeau said. ‘Trad’ jazz is based in wholesome, fun and music easy to dance along to, a style that is fundamental to the Hot House Jazz Band’s sound.

Currently, The Hot House Jazz Band is making preparations to perform at the 17th Annual Subdued Stringband Jamboree on Friday, August 11. Their set is scheduled to start at 5:40 p.m., with a dance workshop earlier that day, so audience members can be ready to swing by the time the band takes the stage.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity for us to get to play at the Jamboree, not only because it’s such a special event for the community, but because traditional jazz is generally not always a genre that gets to be featured,” Rubadeau said. “So we are just very grateful to be brought in, and for getting the chance to have us all cram onto that cozy stage.”

Finding a stage big enough to not be deemed ‘cozy’ for the Hot House Jazz Band could be a difficult task, considering there are 10 members in all.

Apart from Rubadeau on trumpet, the instrumentalists consists of Tom Garcia on saxophone, Alex Larson Kubiak on clarinet, Casey Connor playing piano and rhythm guitarists Chad Petersen and Nat Lara. Mickey Stylin is on upright bass and Jeff Lefferts on auxiliary percussion, which is a suitcase and a washboard he uses to make “ricky-ticky” sounds tying into the prohibition era of the music.

“We were very lucky to find one another, because everyone just jives together,” Rubadeau said. “That’s something that is fundamental to the success of a band; their chemistry. You can have a bunch of really talented musicians, but if you can’t jive together off of the stage, then what’s the point?”

In addition, the Hot House Jazz Band also features a three-part female vocal harmony group, the Hot House Honeys. The ladies, who were recently featured at the Oregon Country Fair, are made up of Ani Banani, Savi Louise and Sadye Osterloh.

Rubadeau said The Honeys are a crucial component in setting the Hot House Jazz Band apart from other bands utilizing the “dancey” beat and infectious sound of traditional jazz.

Finding a time for 10 busy people to meet together and practice can be a daunting task, so most of the set list and song structure discussions are made electronically. When the occasions arises when everyone can meet up, the focus is on playing the music, setting up a solid foundation and tightening up the little details.

This is also the time when the band incorporates the vocals of The Honeys to the instrumentals, to “lay the sweetness on top.”

The band members encourage one another to be vocal about their thoughts and feelings on alternative structure and style options, but as a whole, they agree on the importance of staying true to the 1920s-1940s time period.

“That’s the driving force behind this thing, uniting the community and getting people together to enjoy something they’ll remember,” Rubadeau said. “I think now, more than ever, we need the cathartic kind of music that is just wholesome and fun.”

Though the Hot House Jazz Band started less than six months ago, its mission is already clear. Expand the musical genre of traditional jazz to anyone with a pair of dancing shoes who’s looking for a fun time.

The Hot House Jazz Band performs at the Subdued Stringband Jamboree on Friday, Aug. 11 at 5:40 p.m. Next month, the band will perform on Friday, Sept.  8 at 7:30 p.m.. at the Sh’Bang Festival at the Lookout Arts Quarry. For more information about the Hot House Jazz Band, follow them on Facebook.