As its name suggests, Cowboy Jazz is an appealing mix of Cab Calloway and Bob Wills, or more properly, Andrews Sisters vocalese set to irrepressible Western Swing. The '40s big bands of East and West meet in this Baltimore sextet, which will perform at today's free "Dancin' in the Streets" party on 19th Street between Dupont Circle and Q Street (2 to 6 p.m.)
What makes Cowboy Jazz unique is a three-woman front line that twists complex and tantalizing vocal lines around toe-tapping music by the likes of Calloway, Wills, Duke Ellington and Hank Williams (along with many originals). Guitarist Kate Bennett and fiddler Denise Carlson had played together in Colorado, and Bennett recalls one band with "vibes and steel, a weird mixture of jazz instrument and country; I think the seeds for our style were planted there." After moving to Baltimore, she joined pianist Deanna Bogart, drummer Charlie Crane, bassist Tony De Fontes and multi-instrumentalist Barry Sless.
Cowboy Jazz has logged "a lot of miles in the last couple of years . . . We were a little worried when we first went to Texas, where the music's from, but we were very well received; most of the bands there now are playing rock and R&B. People out West never believe we're from Maryland. They ask 'How many more like you back there?' We say 'Well, none, cause we're out here!' "
Cowboy Jazz, whose new album is due in October, will also appear Thursday at Desperado's, sharing the bill with San Francisco swing merchant, Dan Hicks.