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The Hi-Fi Honeydrops bring a fresh energy to swing

The young swing band reaches back to the genre's early practitioners.

November 01, 2013|By Jonny Whiteside
  • The Hi-Fi Honeydrops during a recent performance at Joe's Great American in Burbank, where the band returns Monday. Left to right: Eliana Athayde (bass/ vocals), Keegan Anglim (Guitar), David Elsenbroich (guitar/ vocals), and Max Bryk (Clarinet).
The Hi-Fi Honeydrops during a recent performance at Joe's… (Courtesy of David…)

Swing band the Hi-Fi Honeydrops doesn't buzz so much as it purrs, giving out with an undulating pure swing sound that's resolutely beholden to oft overlooked forebears as Eddie Lang, the Joe Venuti-Paul Whiteman guitarist who deeply influenced Django Reinhardt.

With three guitars, a bass fiddle and a deliciously spirited, almost acrobatic clarinet, this quintet of twentysomethings have a hauntingly perfected quality to their approach, attitude and style.

While most of their peers tune in hip-hop and techno, these dedicated throwbacks, who appear Monday at Joe's Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank, are zealously dedicated to re-invigorating the Great American Songbook of the early 20th century, a pursuit they manage with impressive facility.

“I was finishing my master's degree at USC, and here I was with all this music education and nowhere to play,” band leader-guitarist David Elsenbroich said. “And I kept asking and asking and asking the owner at this neighborhood spot [Echo Park's 1642 Beer & Wine] to let us play. Finally, they agreed and gave me a Wednesday night.”

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For the 1642 gig, Elsenbroich recruited bassist-vocalist Eliana Athayde, clarinetist Max Bryk and guitarists Greg Flieschot and Keegan Anglim, fellow students all. “We've been playing there three years,” he said. “That held us together, allowed us to cut our teeth and to really get tight as a band.”

A protégé of the renowned jazz guitarist-educator Bruce Forman at USC, Elsenbroich's passion for jazz eventually propelled him back in time. “I was studying with Bruce and at jazz school they throw everything at you, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, just all across the map. I love all that stuff, but I just wasn't latching onto any one thing. And then Bruce says, ‘Here, listen to Eddie Lang and Charlie Christian.'

“I felt a real affinity for these guys. To me, these were blue-collar musicians, working their asses off and playing this incredible music. They made sense to me,” Elsenbroich said. “All my peers were listening to the modern guys, who are great but just didn't speak to me.”

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