All of the group's tunes are head arrangements. They don't use charts.
The Chicago Hot Six features Roy Rubenstein on trombone, Sarah Spencer on tenor saxophone, John Skillman on clarinet, and a rhythm section of banjoist John Kuncl, bassist Art Hovey and drummer Mike Albiniak.
The sextet has no trumpet or cornet player.
"In the more than 30 years that this band and its predecessor existed, we've had only two trumpet or cornet players," the bandleader said. "One died after many years with the band, and the other retired from music and moved away from the Chicago area, again after many years with the band. So far we haven't found anyone else who fits in so well with the style of jazz that we play, so we started to play without a trumpet player, and we liked the sound."
While the musicians all take leads, the bandleader stresses ensemble work. "I much prefer playing ensembles, two people playing together, that sort of thing," he said.
Although he lives and works in the Windy City, Rubenstein is far from a Midwesterner.
He was born and raised in Darlington in Northeast England. He took piano lessons at age 10, but dropped them after a year or two.
"I became interested in traditional jazz at about age 16, and bought an alto saxophone since I wanted to make music, not just listen to it, then soprano sax, then clarinet, and finally trombone." He settled on the 'bone when he went to college because, he said, "there were many good clarinetists there and very few trombone players."
"In my teens, trad jazz was very popular in England," he recalled. "Trad tunes were always in the Top 20." He remembers artists such as trombonist Chris Barber and clarinetist Acker Bilk whose retro-jazz records sold millions of copies.