The Hot Club of San Francisco – John Paul George & Django – HCL ; Thelonius Monk – Criss-Cross – Columbia  

by | Sep 8, 2017 | Jazz CD Reviews, Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Two Vinyl LPs—The Beatles in gypsy jazz and Monk’s second and terrific album; contains his big hits.

The Hot Club of San Francisco – John Paul George & Django – HCL 27041 33 1/3 vinyl ****: 

Thelonius Monk – Criss-Cross – Columbia CS 8838 (1963)/Pure Pleasure Records 33 1/3 vinyl re-master (2017)****: 

Although they are not identified in the title, the first of these LPs is dedicated to Ringo & Dan Hicks. Hicks, a San Francisco-based musician, gave the leader and lead guitarist of the HCSF (Paul Mehling) an idea to include “old” tunes. He had long fantasized about whether Django’s Hot Club of the 1930s would have played Beatles numbers. Now on this vinyl, 13 of them are heard in excellent arrangements and with the best fidelity. There was a lot of very contentious discussion about the arrangements, in which all members participated.

The violin part is prominent in many of the arrangements, played by Evan Price. One girl, Isabelle Fontaine, is one of the two rhythm guitars, washboard, and contributes to some of the vocals. Four special guests also participate, on soprano ax melodica, barrel organ and drums. The great drummer Jeff Hamilton is one of them. Price does more with his violin than Stephane Grappelli on the originals. Things We Said Today and Yellow Submarine are squeezed together on the final track. The double-recorder duet on the latter makes it almost sound like a real sea shanty.

TrackList (John, Paul, George & Django): 

  1. All My Lovin’ 2:38
  2. Because 3:35
  3. Michelle 3:36
  4. I Will 3:03
  5. Here, There And Everywhere 3:00
  6. You Won’t See Me 3:08
  7. The Fool On The Hill 4:02
  8. If I Needed Someone 4:19
  9. Julia 3:06
  10. You Can’t Do That 4:39
  11. For No One 4:28
  12. Don’t Bother Me 3:50
  13. Hey Jude/Duke & Dukie 5:37
  14. Things We Said Today 3:55
  15. Yellow Submarine 1:15

The Monk album is his second for Columbia, and as you can see, full of his great works. Charlie Rouse on tenor sax is a stalwart member of the quartet, who exchanges potent solos thruout the disc, exchanging some powerful musical ideas. The fine rythmic support lets Monk go into endless cascade of percussive inflections and intoxicating chord sequences. I wasn’t that familiar with Eronel, but that’s also a great Monk work. The adagio written to describe his wife is a fine closer, and close to the works of Satie. The positions all four instruments are clearly seen in the excellent fidelity of this vinyl. Like so many geniuses, Monk was a little mentally unbalanced, but he was still a genius.

Although available now as a special pressing from Columbia, you are probably better off listening to the similar-priced remastered vinyl from Pure Pleasure, because I did.

TrackList (Criss-Cross):

  1. Hackensack
  2. Tea for Two
  3. Criss Cross
  4. Eronel
  5. Rhythm-A-Ning
  6. Don’t Blame Me (Retake 1)
  7. Think Of One
  8. Crepuscule With Nellie
  9. Pannonia
  10. Coming On The Hudson
  11. Tea for Two (Take 9)
  12. Eronel (Take 3)

— John Sunier

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