May 2007

The Hot Club of San Francisco - Yerba Buena Bounce
Reference Recordings - RR109
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment *****

Yerba Buena Bounce is the Hot Club of San Francisco’s tenth disc of Parisian-style swing, and like its predecessor, Postcards From Gypsyland, it is a tribute to the music Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli made famous more than 70 years ago. It is also a reminder that this joyous style of music is timeless and, in the right hands, exciting and fresh. Guitarist Paul Mehling has obviously studied Reinhardt’s solos carefully, but he doesn’t merely echo his inspirer, even on the four Reinhardt tunes the group covers here. He carries Django’s musical legacy forward by bringing his own ideas to it and by choosing interesting material, such as the Beatles’ "I’m Happy Just to Dance With You."

Mehling calls the music "Gypsy jazz" and helps keep it alive by writing tunes to add to its tradition. But it is as an improviser that he leaves his strongest impression. His solos are dazzling and quick, yet he plays ballads with a delicate touch. The band’s violinist, Evan Price, matches Mehling for virtuosity and inventiveness, as does mandolin great David Grisman, who guests on two tunes.

The liner notes to Yerba Buena Bounce include two pages of recording details by the disc’s engineer, Keith O. Johnson. His hard work paid off. The instruments are clearly defined in the soundstage, they resonate warmly in the room where they were recorded, and you can hear each instrument’s distinctive tone. Yerba Buena Bounce is an impressive addition to the Hot Club of San Francisco’s 15-year history.