The Hot Club of San Francisco – Live at Yoshi’s San Francisco – Azica Records AJD72249, 74:32 ****:
(Isabelle Fontaine – vocals; Paul ”Pazzo” Mehling – solo guitar, banjo; Evan “Zeppo” Price – violin, electric mandolin; Clint “Wiki” Baker – string bass, trombone, trumpet; Jeff “El Jeffe” Magidson – rhythm guitar, dobro)
Hot Club Of Detroit – Junction – Mack Avenue Records MAC 1067 61:21 [8/14/12] ****:
(Jon Irabagon – alto sax, soprano sax, tenor sax; Julien Labro – accordion; Evan Perri – electric & acoustic guitar; Paul Brady – rhythm guitar; Shawn Conley – bass; Andrew Bishop – tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet 4/6/12; Cyrille Aimée – vocals 3/7/10)
Some sixty years after his death in 1953, the legend that was Django Reinhardt and his brand of gypsy jazz music seems to be alive and well, as evidenced by the recordings from these two groups. Reinhardt, along with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934 which became one of the most original bands in jazz music history. These two bands, more or less, follow that musical style, although they sometimes deviate from the original instrumentation. Additionally the bands offer vocals, which for Django would have been an anathema.
The Hot Club Of San Francisco does not stray too far from its antecedents as it has two strong front line players in guitarist Paul Mehling and violinist Evan Price, both of whom give a good accounting of themselves as the spirits of Reinhardt/Grappelli. This is evident right out of the gate with their swinging version of the latter’s tune “R-26”. While a vocalist is not in the true gypsy jazz vein, the French-born singer Isabelle Fontaine adds a charm and style to this group along with an indisputable singing ability.
With a special fondness for Cole Porter, Fontaine swings out with “It’s All Right With Me” and “Just One Of Those Things” where Porter’s word-smithing is on full display. However it’s her French roots that provides the foundation for a certain poignancy to such favorites as Henri Salvador/Bernard Dimey’s “Syracuse” and the Edith Piaf touchstone “Milord”. This is a tight little band and they couldn’t sound any more original than the original Quintette on Reinhardt’s “Dinette”. All in all a delightful live recording.
The Hot Club Of Detroit is another matter altogether. While its foundation rests on the Reinhardt/Grappelli mold, it has gone off in a musical direction that has only a fleeting reference to the original gypsy jazz construct. With a music mix that is more contemporary than traditional, the band offers the listeners an experience that is far newer and diverse than might be traditionally expected.
The session starts out with “Goodbye, Mr. Anderson” which is an ebullient composition from tenor man Jon Irabagon on which he solos with verve and draws- in the other front line players. Cyrille Aimée, who has an affectingly genuine singing voice, and who is originally from France, brings her French sensibilities to a number of tunes beginning with an Edith Piaf favorite, “La Foule”. She may be even more effective on “Django Mort”, which was composed by accordionist Julian Labro, but with words taken from a Jean Cocteau poem.
There is an inside hockey connotation to the country-gypsy- blues tune “Puck Bunny”, which could only come from a Detroit-based band, and refers to those young ladies who hang out with hockey players. The closer is “Rift” originally done by the rock band Phish, which strips away all the clichés, and romps right along at full speed.
The band’s talent is on full display with this release, as it brings together a number of musical styles and ideas which at the end of the day are harmonically sophisticated.
The Hot Club of San Francisco = TrackList: R-26; It’s All Right With Me; What A Little Moonlight Can Do; Syracuse; Songe d’Automne; Just One Of Those Things; C’est Si Bon; Gone With The Wind; Dinette; I Love Paris; Dansons La Rose; Stella By Starlight; Buona Sera; Milord
Hot Club Of Detroit = TrackList: Goodbye, Mr. Anderson; Song For Gabriel; La Foule; Hey!; Chutzpah; Messe Gitane; Junction; Midnight In Detroit; Lonely Woman; Goodbye Mr. Shearing; Puck Bunny; Rift
This is a delightful holiday collection.