June 2005

The Hot Club of San Francisco - Postcards from Gypsyland
Lost Wax LWP0501
Released: 2005
Format: CD

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

The music Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli played with the Quintet of the Hot Club of Paris was so rooted in the late-'20s recordings of Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti that at first it was dismissed as a pale copy. Their reputation grew, however, and, until the postwar years, guitarist Reinhardt was the only European jazz musician to enjoy wide admiration and respect among his American peers.

The members of the Hot Club of San Francisco remind us that what made Django unique was the influence of the Belgian Gypsy musical traditions he grew up with, along with many other strains of European music he absorbed while living and playing in Paris. The HCSF’s similar openness to many styles and composers allows them to keep alive the kind of swing Reinhardt and Grappelli played.

Their beautiful rendition of Reinhardt’s "Manoir de Mes Rève" is played as a simple guitar duet by Paul Mehling and Sam Miltich, while "Jonesin’," a composition by Evan Price, one of the group’s violinists, adds a string quartet (Price, in fact, multi-tracked) for a more complex arrangement that swings joyously. Another larger-scale arrangement is a take on a song by the Italian singer Paolo Conte, who was born in 1937, two years before Reinhardt and Grappelli parted ways. By writing their own tunes and choosing unique tunes to interpret (such as Ravel’s "Pavane Pour une Infante Défunte"), the HCSF keeps this music fresh and vibrant.

Nicely packaged, excellently recorded, and warmly recommended.