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San Jose Swing: JP and the Rhythm Chasers

In Music
JP and the Rhythm Chasers

Josh Perkins is the “JP” in San Jose’s JP and the Rhythm Chasers. The band’s repertoire focuses on music from around WWII, with an emphasis on the various incarnations of swing that existed during that time.

It’s a genre of music that requires considerable skill, not only because timing is of utmost importance and it requires a flawless knowledge of hundreds of chords and scale variations, it all has to be done with ease and a smile. The form comes from a time when you weren’t considered a musician if you couldn’t sight-read, and it was almost rude to look down at your fretboard instead of towards the audience.

Needless to say, things have changed and that type of showmanship has disappeared from the spotlight of American popular music. It’s difficult to find the buttery-smooth chord changes that seem to fall into each other, the bouncing guitar solos that can turn on a dime, and the gabardine suits and hair held firm with pomade. Times are different, and there is nothing wrong with that, but there is something very captivating, nostalgic, and uplifting about what JP and the Rhythm Chasers do.

Josh Perkins is a third-generation guitar luthier. He works with his father and brother at C.B. Perkins, an 89 year-old business his grandfather started in San Jose. He’s even about to release a reproduction of the old DeArmond Rhythm Chief pickup that was responsible for a large portion of the electric guitar sound from the swing era. That’s probably why Josh can reach back and grab hold of the music so easily. His brother, Eric, takes care of the bass duties, playing a 1940s Kay double-bass. David Phillips backs them up on slide guitar, David Nelson keeps the drums tight, and Kevin Deibert works the saxophone.

Their dedication to authenticity is proven in how they record their work. Imagine a track recorded with one microphone, one take, with the band standing around and playing live. That’s how JP and the Rhythm Chasers do it, and they do it with a 70-year-old RCA mic.

JP and the Rhythm Chasers, \”It\’ll Be Me.\”

To see them live is even better. While some swing acts like to add more modern influences to their performances, JP and the Rhythm Chasers focus on keeping the tunes as close to what people were playing in the 30s, 40s and 50s as possible.

As Josh says, ““My philosophy has always been: let’s sound like a band of that era. We’re not going to be a carbon copy of one particular band, but let’s play within that format, within that feel “

Sure, a little Western vibe can seep out of the slide guitar, and Josh has been know to sprinkle leads ala Django over certain tunes, but it all fits together like a well-tailored suit.

It’s a rare type of music these days. The atmosphere at the shows is lively, with energetic dancing near the stage, but it also allows for intimate conversation and an overall felling that these guys are here to entertain the crowd and not vice versa. It’s the type of music that makes people want to get dressed up and be cordial. JP puts it best, “We’re all things swing.”

JP and the Rhythm Chasers will be releasing their new album in a few months. They will perform live at the Hedley Club (hotel De Anza) Saturday, May 12th.

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