Throwback flapper Janet Klein is the very definition of an “old soul.” She grew up in 1970s San Bernardino, yet fell in love with the bits of the IE she never knew—the historical images she’d seen of early turn-of-the-century postcards with orange groves and the old Carnegie Library with the onion dome. The way things were got into her blood, and today she’s the most refreshing anachronism to ever materialize from the ether of the Prohibition. Klein is a channel to a definitive time in American music when Eton crops were the rage and batting-eyes meant you had a live one on your hands.
Thing is, LA-based Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys are more than some nostalgic shtick. She doesn’t merely perform songs from “lost America”—obscure numbers circa 1900s-1930s such as barrelhouse jazz, foxtrots, chansonettes, ragtime ditties and vaudeville from the Great Depression—she actually lives them, and transports her audiences along the way. Klein considers herself an “archeologist” for digging up buried treasures by the likes of Wilton Crawley and A.P. Randolf and Robert Cloud, the songs of the Victrola that her and the Parlor Boys—featuring an all-star line-up playing banjos, uprights, trombones, trumpets, violins, piano, etc—add all that authentic dang to feel the wild spirit of that bygone era. The “naughty” music of the day is Klein’s strong suit, and the ukulele chanteuse belts in an Olive Oyl-meets-Billie Holiday voice while coyly bobbling in step to the strump.
On Saturday night she returns to the IE, here’s hoping for the Lorenz Hart-penned “Hollywood Party,” a standout in the hundreds of songs in Klein’s repertoire. Whatever she chooses to play from her five albums of material, it’ll be good music because, as Klein says, it comes “from the only decades that were ever worth a hill o’ beans.” (Chuck Mindenhall)
Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys, Hobo Jazz at the Folk Music Center, 220 Yale Ave., Claremont, (909) 624-2928, Saturday, February 16. Doors at 7PM, $12