Vancouver’s Hot Club of Mars has been swinging for a few spins around the sun — though things really started heating up when performance songwriter, Deanna “D” Knight landed on the red planet in 2002. The lovely and talented chanteuse “D” adds a magic sparkle that really brings these wonderful old tunes to life with style, power and grace. And she writes her originals with as much depth and pizzazz as when she delivers them!
Between them the group encompasses over a century of performing experience. Acoustic bassist Charlie Knowles “kicks the cat” with finesse while guitarist Steve “Bugzy” Szabo keeps the rhythms chugging. Martian Ambassador Michael Dunn and new arrival Don Kellett spin their sweet Djangoesque lines on lead slide and guitars, and resident windgod Mark Dowding, keeps those Martian desert winds blowing hot. The newest Martian import, violinist Tom Neville, channels the spirit of the late great Stephane Grappelli rounding out the sound to a full acoustic orchestra of roots jazz.
This high-energy acoustic 7-piece inspires swing dancing in a variety of settings from jazz and folk festivals to dance halls and night clubs. As a bonus for festivals, several of the players are experienced workshop facilitators and everyone is a skilled and confident improviser. Luthier and lead guitarist Michael Dunn is well known for his mentoring of young players and his knowledge of gypsy-jazz and Maccaferri guitars. His skills are always a hit in a more intimate workshop setting. Multi-instrumentalist, Mark Dowding’s versatility and teaching experience are also popular in a teaching style workshop.
The band’s 2005 release — Gypsy Fire captures the fun loving spirit Deanna Knight & the Hot Club of Mars has to share and includes 2 originals from Deanna… who’s vocals are well at home in this genre. A second release was launched at the 7th Annual April in Paris ~ Django Festival on April 12th, 2013. Kiss of Fire is another eclectic mix of fabulous songs from the early 1900′s. Throw in a few originals, a tango, a bossa, and even a cover of a popular Roy Forbes tune…and you have another great mix.
Chanteuse / Songwriter / Event Producer
With over 30 years stage experience from a cappella to Big Band, jammin’ rock to spoken word and choral tours to healing ceremony. Deanna Knight is today exploring great old tunes in the acoustic, gypsy-jazz styling’s of Deanna Knight & the Hot Club of Mars. As their longest running chanteuse of 12 years, D is honoured to be breathing new life into these classic melodies along with her originals, tango, bossa and favourite songs from today’s songwriters.
D’s debut solo CD Shadow of a Star proved her growth as a singer and introduced her strength as a songwriter. Co-produced alongside award-winning George Koller (Loreena McKennitt, Holly Cole) it features the cream of Canada’s recording talent, including Gary Craig (Anne Murray, Jann Arden), Richard Bell (Janis Joplin, The Band), Oliver Schroer, Carlos del Junco and more.
Deanna also enjoys producing cabaret style events and sharing her original songwriting in more intimate salon style concerts. You can catch her around Vancouver having lots of fun alongside a number of acclaimed musicians including Simon Kendall (Doug and the Slugs) Bill Sample (Michelle Wright, Randy Bachman, Seal) and Jane Milliken (Lee Aaron) D’s charm always lifts our spirits with hope, harmony and a smooth touch of jazz.
Lead, National Steele and rhythm guitars
Michael Dunn has been playing guitar since age 11 and trained as a classical and flamenco guitar-maker in the late 1960s. Now a world renowned luthier, Michael makes his living playing gypsy-jazz and building Maccaferri/Selmer guitars. His creations are in high demand worldwide. So much so that one was flown to the Academy Awards to be played on stage at the ceremony. He is a rare west coast gem who is well respected by his peers and loved by his audience. With many recording credits he is known across Canada and Europe for touring with the late Bob Brozman. Their recordings are enormously popular in France. In 2006, Michael released a duo CD Djali to Django with Don Ogilvie and 2012 saw the birth of another project and CD release with quartet Brighter Lights Thicker Glasses. With a desire to slow down on his guitar building and ramp up his music making, 2013 saw the dawn of another new project along with co-martian Don Kellett and both of their lovely wives. The Royal Aloha Monday Orchestra nurtures Michael’s deep love for Hawaiian music and features his gorgeous acoustic instruments. The 2014 release of Michael’s self-published memoir entitled STRINGS: A Guitarmakers Journey, marks his first 5 years as a luthier in both Spain and Vancouver during the 1960s.
sax, flute and harmonica
Mark Dowding debuted as a professional musician in 1970 and has performed and recorded with artists in western Canada in genres as diverse as celtic, juju, salsa, contemporary folk, pop, blues, R&B and his main love, hot swing. He is also co-founder of the BC-based traditional folk music group The Wheat in the Barley, playing a variety of festivals and educational school performances. Mark also lends his graphic and design skills to the band and helped create the layout for both Hot Club CD’s.
rhythm and lead guitar
Don Kellett started playing at age 9, purchasing a guitar and lessons with his paper route money. He was introduced to the music of Django in the early 60′s and became an instant fan. In 2002, Don met Michael Dunn who fostered Don’s interest in Hot Swing and Hawaiian Steel Guitar. Don also performs as a solo finger style guitarist, in Stringz Aloud! with Susan Vigneux and in other musical projects in the lower mainland. He is on the faculty of the Moveable Music School in Vancouver and has taught at the Georgia Strait Guitar Workshop. Don joins Michael Dunn each week hosting Aloha Mondays at Vancouver’s Co-op Radio and on stage in The Royal Aloha Monday Orchestra.
acoustic and electric bass
Charlie Knowles has been a professional musician since 1969. Charlie has played in a wide variety of musical situations, covering concert performance, musical theatre and studio recording. As long-time sideman of Joelle Rabu, music has taken him to the USA, Eastern Europe, and China. Recording credits include numerous film scores, albums and both Hot Club of Mars CDs – Gypsy Fire and Kiss of Fire, which he engineered, mixed and mastered.
fiddle and mandolin
Tom Neville offers up a wide variety of musical tastes; folk, celtic, blues, popular, jazz, country and ethnic flavours. He has played on numerous recording sessions for film, commercials and on many album projects. In 2001 he released his first solo CD Highly Strung a collection of original and traditional material featuring many of the finest musicians and singers from British Columbia. Some career highlights include a command performance for the Duke and Duchess of Kent at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (backing Joelle Rabu), performing with Danny Kaye and the Peking Pops Orchestra at Expo 86, and recording and performing with Juno Award winner James Kellaghan and Vancouver’s Babe Gurr.
Steve Szabo began playing guitar at an early age and developed a special passion for hot swing in recent years. He was a regular member of Lache Cercel’s exotic gypsy swing ensemble who held court at the Kino Cafe in Vancouver every Monday night for many years. It was in these long-running sessions that he met and began playing with Michael Dunn, who took Steve in as his protégé and began working tightly coordinated Gypsy jazz rhythm and lead guitar stylings now manifesting themselves in the rhythms of Deanna Knight & the Hot Club of Mars.
Kiss of Fire
Deanna Knight & the Hot Club of Mars (2013)
1. Kiss of Fire
2. Lover, Come Back to Me
3. Lifting My Heart
4. Peacock – lyrics
8. Under a Western Moon
9. Poco Swing
10. Russian Lullaby
11. Salt of My Tears
12. Recado Bossa Nova
13. That Cat is High
15. Triplettes of Belleville
D & the Hot Club of Mars (2005)
1. Tchavalo Swing
2. My Checkered Past
3. Whip or Will – lyrics
4. Old Cape Cod
5. La Partida
6. Someday Sweetheart
7. Me, Myself and I
8. Phoenix Manouche
9. Sweet Lovin’ Way – lyrics
10. How I Love This Tango
11. Dreamer’s Holiday
13. Douce Ambience
below to download high resolution versions.
Connect and Bookings
D & the Hot Club of Mars:
concerts, dances, festivals,
theme parties, private events, workshops