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Clearwater Hot Club celebrates release of third CD

To celebrate the release of its third CD, "Some of These Days," Sam Miltich and The Clearwater Hot Club will perform in its favorite location: northern Minnesota.

"We'd rather play in northern Minnesota than anywhere else," said Matthew Miltich, a Bemidji State University graduate who plays string bass. "This is home for all of us."

Clearwater, a gypsy jazz band that combines Brazilian choro and French musette, will play at 8 p.m. Saturday at Brigid's Cross Irish Pub.

The band's first CD, "Sammo," was released in November 2003. "May Rain," its second, was released in 2004.

But the band lost a member on May 7, 2005, when violinist Raphael Fraisse died of leukemia.

Two years later, the band now has a different look and a different sound. Saxophonist Don Vidal of Grand Rapids, also a BSU grad, has joined Clearwater.

"There was no way we could re-create what we had with Raphael," said Sam Miltich, the lead guitarist. "We decided to try something new with someone else."

The result is "Some of These Days," a nine-song CD that was dedicated to Fraisse's memory.

Matthew Miltich said the pool of jazz musicians in northern Minnesota is only so large. Clearwater had played with Vidal previously, and it just seemed "natural" for them to come together.

Sam Miltich said that when recording its new album, the group set out to present its new feel. The second CD "was very European in nature" due to Fraisse's violin abilities, he said.

"We can't replace what we had," Sam Miltich said.

So, instead, with Vidal's saxophone, the band tried to maintain its old sound while adding to it.

"With Don Vidal, we have a different feel," Sam Miltich said. "He has a very American style of sax playing, a very unique sound."

The new tones lent themselves to different songs. "Some of These Days" includes two Duke Ellington songs, "In a Sentimental Mood" and "The Mouche." Vidal came especially in handy for "The Mouche," in which he developed the arrangement for Clearwater's performance.

"It's nice. It has a really great sound," Sam Miltich said of this latest CD. "We were able to achieve something different."

Yet, it also was important for the band to stay true to its roots. Since its founding in summer 2003, the Clearwater Hot Club has strived to play in the style of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli.

Their inspiration also is on "Some of These Days." Reinhardt's "Nuages" is included on the CD, as is his "Improvisation No. 6."

The CDs have literally just come out of their box, Matthew Miltich said. Saturday's performance will celebrate its release.

"It's basically a reflection of what we have kind of been doing," he said. "It's somewhat different from what we've done before."

Matthew Miltich, especially, is looking forward to returning to Bemidji. He said he has four college degrees - and three are from BSU.

The CD itself also has a BSU connection. Matthew Miltich's daughter, Mateya M. Miltich, created the cover - a multi-colored portrait of a person's face - in an oil-painting class that she took while a student at BSU.

The band has played several times before in Bemidji.

"We've played as far away as Japan," Matthew Miltich said. "We'd rather play in northern Minnesota than anywhere else."