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Gypsy Jazz And Indie Rock Collide In The Red Skunk Band

Jerry Abaun / Courtesy

Jerry Abaun / Courtesy

“I like to be traditional but I don’t like to be a bitch about it. It’s fun to rock out, you know?” said Molly Reeves, the curly-red-haired lead guitarist and vocalist of the Red Skunk Band, an indie-swing group based out of Los Osos, California.

Following the debut of their third album, Red Skunk: South West, the Red Skunk Band decided to launch their California album release tour, starting at 9 p.m. tonight at West Sacramento’s Midtown Stomp

Born and raised on the Central Coast, Reeves is no stranger to the Sacramento jazz scene. She and the Skunks have performed at the Sacramento Jazz Festival, and she currently works as a counselor at the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Camp at Sly Park. 

Reeves founded the Red Skunk Band in 2005 when she was 14-years-old. Back then, the band was known as the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band.

“I’ve got a lot of posters made by venues for the band and they spelled ‘Jipzee’ all kinds of ways,” Reeves said. “It was getting kind of confusing, so I took it out.”

The name change also came with changes in the band's overall musical approach. Justin Au, lead trumpet player for the Skunks, and Sacramento native, said the group was intent on, “Branching out, not being limited to just Gypsy jazz and swing.”

Gypsy jazz is a style first popularized by 1930’s guitarist Django Reinhardt. Reeves described how their former name pigeonholed the group as a strictly Gypsy-style band.

“We will play Gypsy flavor on a lot of songs,” Reeves said. “But we’re not a Gypsy swing band exclusively, so that’s why we took [Jipzee] out.”

The Red Skunk’s indie-swing genre is a concoction of two different musical flavors. The band fuses the Gypsy jazz and swing styles of Django Reinhardt and Fats Waller with the indie rock elements of modern artists such as Andrew Bird.

Regarding the band’s unique genre, Reeves stated, “Oh I’ve always been a rock star at heart. But I love swing, and that’s what I play.”

To add some personal flair to the music, Reeves will strum-drum; a technique in which she percussively hits the strings of her guitar.

In another instance, she said, “I flipped my guitar over and I played brushes [type of drumstick] on the back of my guitar.”

Touring Red Skunk Band members include Au on trumpet, Reeves on guitar, Sam Boorman on guitar, Lauren Donahe on violin, Leon Ledoux on drums, Rose Cangelosi on drums, and Andrew Lawrence on bass.

Come listen to the Red Skunk Band as they tear down the west coast, playing traditional jazz charged with youthful energy and indie-rock flair.

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