The Hot Club of San Francisco

The Hot Club of San Francisco

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The Hot Club of San Francisco Review

by Scott Yanow

Due to its name and the fact that its core comprises a swing-based string band, listeners might be excused if they believe that the Hot Club of San Francisco closely resembles Django Reinhardt's band of the 1930s, the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. Actually Django is the main inspiration for guitarist Paul Mehling and his quartet (comprising three acoustic guitars and a bass) but the results are far from derivative. Of the dozen tracks on the fine release from Clarity, the Hot Club accompanies three excellent singers on two songs apiece: Maria Muldaur (who sounds quite enthusiastic on "Nature Boy" and "Don't Be That Way"), Dan Hicks (famous for leading his Hot Licks) and veteran blues veteran Barbara Dane. In addition, flutist Matt Eakle (who is on the more modern material), soprano saxophonist Richard Hadlock, violinist Ray Landsberg, and tenor saxophonist Mike Sizer (on the Muldaur numbers) augment the Hot Club on some of the vocals and all of the instrumentals other than Reinhardt's "Improvisation No. 2" which is taken as an unaccompanied solo by Paul Mehling. Although based in the swing era, there are some departures (such as a rendition of Jimmy Rowles' haunting ballad "The Peacocks" and the flute playing). It might have been preferable to hear the basic quartet featured by itself on a couple of numbers, but this is a rather impressive debut nonetheless.

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