Tag Archives: Hot Club of San Francisco

“JOHN PAUL GEORGE AND DJANGO”: THE HOT CLUB OF SAN FRANCISCO

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I think I am older than Paul Mehling, but we both came up in a time when the Beatles were not only the sensational mop-tops who had made all the girls scream at concert performances but when their songs were the ubiquitous popular soundtrack.  I can remember buying each new album as it came out and listening avidly.  Of course, both Paul and I felt drawn to a different kind of music, as he writes in the brief notes to this new CD:

The idea that Django Reinhardt would have played the Beatles’ tunes has haunted me ever since I took up the guitar.  Like so many of my generation who were galvanized by their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, I became part of the ‘culture of guitar’ and never looked back.  But unlike my guitar brethren who stayed on for sex, drugs, and/or rock ‘n’ roll, I was devastated by the breakup of the Beatles and I quit listening to rock entirely, foolishly believing that the best was now over.  Luckily, I was already deeply inspired by traditional jazz — Goodman, Bechet, Dorsey, Shaw, & others of the swing era, especially Django.  This record was inevitable in that regard.

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For those impatient with words, here you can hear sound samples, learn more about the Hot Club of San Francisco, and purchase the music.

The HCSF is a venerable band — much of its personnel staying the same for a long time — and it has the ease and intensity of a working band.  The players are Paul Mehling, Evan Price, SAm Rocha, Iabelle Fontaine, Jordan Samuels, with guests Jeff Hamilton, Nate Ketner, Jeff Magidson, Michel Saga.

The repertoire neatly balances the familiar (going all the way back to 1964) and the less well-known: ALL MY LOVIN’ / BECAUSE / MICHELLE / I WILL / HERE THERE AND EVERYWHERE / YOU WON’T SEE ME / THE FOOL ON THE HILL / IF I NEEDE SOMEONE / JULIA / YOU CAN’T DO THAT / FOR NO ONE / DON’T BOTHER ME / HEY JUDE – DUKE & DUKIE / THINGS WE SAID TODAY / YELLOW SUBMARINE.  Because Mehling is a gleeful subversive, there is a French group vocal, visits from musical saw, banjo, melodica, and barrel organ. It isn’t the Beatles on hallucinogens visiting an abandoned gypsy caravan, but it has immense wit, verve, and variety.  As impatient as I can be, I listened to this CD without a break many times.

In the Sixties and beyond, there were many recordings of Beatles “covers”: the Hollyridge Strings Play Lennon and McCartney; Nelson Eddy Sings the Beatles; Wilbur Sweatman Plays the Hits of Today (seriously, both Basie and Ellington attempted this, and Louis sang — most convincingly — GIVE PEACE A CHANCE).  In general, these recordings were often an attempt to bridge the generations and to give record buyers senior and junior something to purchase. But the end result was often watery.

Not so the HCSF CD.  Each song is quietly linked to the ones before and after — so the end result is a charming Beatles suite, a too-brief immersion.  But it’s also a brightly colored journey, with each track exhibiting its own glowing personality: brilliant and sometimes surprising arranging makes this delightfully possible.  And if you are worried about such things, the session swings mightily and is wonderful dance music. To describe this CD track-by-track would be to spoil the fun, but I can see why devoted fans of the HCSF had been after Paul to make a CD like this.

May your happiness increase!

THEY’RE RHYTHM CRAZY NOW: THE IVORY CLUB BOYS at ARMANDO’S (May 31, 2014): PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, ISABELLE FONTAINE, MARC CAPARONE, SAM ROCHA

The Ivory Club Boys create wonderful music. Here are two more songs from the soundcheck at their May 31, 2014 performance at Armando’s in Martinez.  The ICB are Paul Mehling, guitar; Evan Price, violin; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar / vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass; Marc Caparone, cornet (sitting in for Clint Baker that night).

CRAZY RHYTHM:

‘DEED I DO (pertly sung by Isabelle):

Here is my most recent post from this wonderful evening’s performance (including a glorious BUGLE CALL RAG and a thoroughly spiritual NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN).

I’ll be looking forward to the ICB’s next gig at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California, on August 19 (8 PM, one show).  I hope to see you there.

May your happiness increase!

FROM SPIRITUAL TO SWING: THE IVORY CLUB BOYS at ARMANDO’S (May 31, 2014): “NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN,” Take One: PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, MARC CAPARONE, SAM ROCHA, ISABELLE FONTAINE

Hot music straight from their hearts: NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN, as performed by the IVORY CLUB BOYS, Paul Mehling’s evocation of Stuff Smith’s delicious swing on Fifty-Second Street circa 1946-45. They are, for this hot concert, Paul, guitar; Evan Price, violin; Marc Caparone, cornet (subbing for Clint Baker); Sam Rocha, string bass; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar. This was recorded on May 31, 2014, at Armando’s in Martinez, California.  I was behind the camera, so you can’t see how much I was and am grinning. emotionally deep but very light-hearted improvisations, the work of swing masters:

Oh, and for those in the know . . . that was the soundcheck.  Draw your own conclusions about how wonderful this band is.

Here is the first posting — a riotous BUGLE CALL RAG from that same session. More to come, thank goodness. And the IVORY CLUB BOYS (with Clint on trumpet) will be appearing at Yoshi’s in Oakland on August 19.  Make a note of that, please.

May your happiness increase!

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: MORE OF LE JAZZ HOT at MONTEREY (March 7, 2014)

A number of people wrote very enthusiastic responses to my posting part of a set by Dawn Lambeth and Le Jazz Hot (March 7, 2014) at Jazz Bash by the Bay. They wanted more, and I can’t blame them. More of Dawn’s beautiful singing from another set is on the way, but here are the remaining performances by Le Jazz Hot from that session.

For the latecomers, the posts I speak of can be seen here and here.

The band is Paul Mehling, guitar; Evan Price, violin; Isabelle Fontaine, rhythm guitar / vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass.

To the music.

PLACE DE BROUCKERE:

MELODIE AU CREPUSCULE:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

BUONA SERA, SIGNORINA:

I won’t attempt to explain the intricate relations between the Hot Club of San Francisco, Le Jazz Hot, and the Ivory Club Boys, except to say that the latter incarnation is gigging at Armando’s in Martinez on May 31.  Details here.

May your happiness increase!

DAWN LAMBETH SINGS, LE JAZZ HOT PLAYS at MONTEREY (March 7, 2014)

A winning combination for sure: the wonderful singer Dawn Lambeth paying a swing visit to Le Jazz Hot — Paul Mehling, guitar; Evan Price, violin; Isabelle Fontaine, rhythm guitar; Sam Rocha, string bass — at the Jazz Bash by the Bay on March 7, 2014:

I COVER THE WATERFRONT:

THE MAN I LOVE:

MY MELANCHOLY BABY:

WHEN DAY IS DONE:

You can find out more about Dawn here or on Facebook.  She has appeared at many major music festivals, recorded two CDs, and has a wonderful DVD out as well.  Dawn will be more prominently featured in the 2015 Bash.  As for the delightful Le Jazz Hot (and its various incarnations: the Hot Club of San Francisco or the Ivory Club Boys), follow them     here or at their Faccebook page.

But the music will tell you all you need to know about a wonderful singer and a fine band — the musical embodiment of “a starlit sky above,” even though we were indoors.

May your happiness increase! 

SWING STUFF: THE IVORY CLUB BOYS ARE COMING! (May 31, 2014)

The Ivory Club Boys, a small hot band loosely based on Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys of hallowed memory, will be playing a rare date at Armando’s in Martinez, California, on Satirday, May 31, 2014.  Admission will be $15; the gig will last two hours; the doors open at 7:30.  More information about Armando’s (a small cheerful room where I’ve heard Mal Sharpe and friends in the recent past) can be found here. Getting there isn’t difficult; I’ve accomplished this several times when California was entirely new to me: here is a map.

The Ivory Club Boys are a spinoff of the Hot Club of San Francisco and Le Jazz Hot — which only means they swing and guitarist Paul Mehling is at the helm, along with Evan Price (electric violin), Marc Caparone (cornet), Isabelle Fontaine (guitar and vocal), Sam Rocha (string bass). They aren’t a repertory band — or what this generation would call a “cover band” — which means they might perform songs outside the Smithian recorded canon, but that makes for an evening full of surprises.  And Paul’s announcement on Facebook mentions that we can expect surprise guests.

Let’s assume the Ivory Club Boys are a new entity to you, or that Martinez is off your radar, or even that you are a stubborn sort (Missouri-born or not) with folded arms, muttering “Show me.” Here’s some evidence: I’ve recorded the Ivory Club Boys twice: once at Rancho Nicasio, with Mehling, Price, Rocha, Clint Baker, and guest Mike Lipskin:

and more recently at Le Colonial SF with Mehling, Price, Baker, Rocha, and Fontaine:

Now do you see why I might encourage you to make the pilgrimage? I thought so.

May your happiness increase!

SWING SCENE: MONDAY NIGHT at LE COLONIAL SF with THE IVORY CLUB BOYS (PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, CLINT BAKER, SAM ROCHA, ISABELLE FONTAINE: April 28, 2014)

A week ago, last Monday night, I was making the scene at Le Colonial SF (20 Cosmo Place, San Francisco) on the site of the famous Trader Vic’s.

Virtuoso guitarist Paul Mehling and friends usually play hot gypsy jazz — homage to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli — as the Hot Club of San Francisco. But Paul brought a new variation on swinging themes, The Ivory Club Boys, to Le Colonial on April 28, 2014.

The Ivory Club Boys evoke the jazz scene of the late Thirties on New York City’s fabled Swing Street (Fifty-Second Street) with a special emphasis on the hot music of violinist Stuff Smith.

Along with Paul, the ICB are Evan Price, electric violin; Clint Baker, trumpet AND trombone AND vocal; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar, vocal, and non-Boyishness; Sam Rocha, string bass, vocal.

OPENING BLUES (like the old days, and wonderful):

CRAZY RHYTHM:

CARELESS LOVE (a blues Stuff Smith adored):

An assertively quick reinvention of SWEET AND LOVELY:

DESERT SANDS:

DINAH:

Le Colonial is a fine place to be on Mondays — to hear hot music; to dance to it; to watch the exuberantly acrobatic dancers; to eat Vietnamese food and drink all sorts of intriguing liquids.  And now “20 Cosmo Place” is in my GPS, so I feel both secure and excited.

May your happiness increase!