As unpredictable, fearless, and entertaining as their namesake, Le Chat Lunatique purveys an addictive genre they call “filthy, mangy jazz,” a signature sound that makes you want to smoke and drink too much—if only you could get off the dance floor. Le jazz hot of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli is their north star, but they use that beacon to navigate through a wide range of genres, blending Western swing, classical, reggae, d00-wop, and “anything else we damn well please” into strikingly original compositions and audaciously reworked standards alike.
Le Chat Lunatique is Muni Kulasinghe’s theatrical vocals, his violin skittering across the music like beads of water on a hot skillet—inspired as much by a legless Polish gypsy he encountered on his vagabond travels as by the great Grappelli. It’s the axe of guitarist John Sandlin, the classicist who fell under the sway of Reinhardt, felling bar after bar of music with ferocious dexterity. It’s the slap-happy bass and slyly sweet vocals of Jared Putnam, the sinisterly innocent one whose dark past embraces both death metal and Western swing. It’s the irresistibly deep-pocketed grooves of drummer Fernando Garavito, the mysterious and gracious Colombian who appeared by magic in New Mexico.
The group began prowling the nightspots of Albuquerque -that secret haven of hot jazz - back in 2005, spontaneously impregnating the ears of unsuspecting audience members, who found themselves unable to stop listening or dancing or making merry. From their earliest gigs, Le Chat Lunatique has offered swinging originals with ear-snagging hooks and stories to tell—well-constructed little gems that propagate earworms for ongoing pleasure. Devilishly clever lyrics offer insight into l’amour (“falling in love is like eating tacos”), a louche paean to a doting millionairess (“Buy me a Cadillac, buy me a yacht / Buy me everything that I haven’t got”), minatory observations on fate (“the bus of God will run you
over”), and the inevitable bitterness of a broken heart (“Miss Lady . . . please do me the courtesy of drinking in some other gin joint”).
The band’s repertoire also features original arrangements of tunes that stretch from kindergarten favorites (“Frère Jacques”) to pop hits (“Straight Up”) to swing anthems (“Minnie the Moocher”) to Reinhardt classics (“Blue Drag”). Every single tune is more than covered—it’s completely “Le-Chat-ified.” First, it’s dunked in the group’s collective musical subconscious, and then they play the hell out of it. Take, for example, Sandlin’s inspired gypsy jazz arrangement of Eric Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1 - over a reggae rhythm (say what?). Then there’s the medieval liturgical intro to “House of the Rising Sun,” which ultimately descends into transcendent desperation.
Riding the popularity of their acclaimed first CD, Demonic Lovely, which featured all original tunes, and their follow-up collection of covers, Under the Covers (Vol.1), Le Chat Lunatique has been inducing musical mania in an ever-widening circle—from the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, to the clubs of England, to the boards of the national theater in Novi Sad, Serbia, where they performed their commissioned score for Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental's ground breaking theatrical production Flamingo/Winnebago. In their home state of New Mexico, they’ve won award after award annually for best band, best jazz act, and best song.
Their irreverent humor, their intensity, and their expert musicianship will soon win them your acclamation as the best time you’ve ever had in public with your clothes on.