The Hot Club of San Francisco introduces romance and culture Friday, October 24 at John A. Logan Col
The Hot Club of San Francisco introduces romance and culture Friday, October 24 at John A. Logan College. The group’s show, Meet Me in Paris, features singer Isabelle Fontaine, who will croon songs in three languages.
Bandleader Paul Mehling is known as the godfather of American Gypsy jazz. He became a fan of Django Reinhardt and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France while he was in grammar school. He said from the time he was just one year old, he would sit in front of the stereo and listen to music.
“My father was a record collector,” he told Nightlife. “I grew up with the music of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, and all the swing-era bands.”
Mehling admits that being exposed to swing at a young age helped shape his musical tastes.
“To this day, I get a sense of déjà vu whenever I hear a song I heard back then,” he said.
The Hot Club of San Francisco (known as Le Jazz Hot when the group plays in their hometown) plays love songs and driving Gypsy-jazz tunes that were made famous in Paris by the Hot Club de France, Django Reinhardt, and Stéphane Grappelli during the twenties and thirties.
After the First World War, Paris became a gathering place for artists from all around the globe. The unique Gypsy jazz sound wove together the interwar cultures of those different geographies and fused them into something special.
Mehling produced the Hot Club of San Francisco’s first album, which was then released on the band’s own label. Since then, they have released nine more albums and developed numerous shows. In 2000, the Hot Club of San Francisco was the first American band invited to play the Festival de Jazz Django Reinhardt in Samois-sur-Seine.
Though the Hot Club owes much to Gypsy jazz, “We have a swing-or-die approach to the music that’s distinctly American,” he said. “We’re trying to challenge the tendency to slavishly imitate Django’s style without watering down the Gypsy tradition or diluting the music. We bring out the visceral element of the music that Serge told me is so important. When I talk with Gypsy musicians, they say that they love what we do because they can tell we love the music. If people dig our music, when Gypsy bands come to America there will be an audience waiting to hear them.”
Using Paris as a backdrop for this touring show, Mehling said the band aims to transport its audience to the City of Lights. The show even includes vocals in Fontaine’s sweet, sultry voice in English, French, and Spanish to help the music create a European atmosphere.
“Paris has always been that place,” Mehling said. “It has always been that center of art, culture, and beauty. We want the audience to feel like they are there.”
When asked what is his favorite part of the show, Mehling said the answer varies from night to night.
“For me, it depends,” he said. “I like seeing which songs the audience responds to every night. It is always different, and that’s exciting.”
And that creates synergy, Mehling said.
“You feed off the energy,” he said. “You work to get that relationship with the audience with a give and take.”
For tickets, contact Logan’s Office of Student Activities at (618) 985-2828 ext. 8287 or visit <http://www.jalc.edu/activities>.
For more information, check out <http://www.hcsf.com>.
who: John A. Logan College Student Activities
what: Hot Club of San Francisco featuring Isabelle Fontaine presents Meet Me in Paris (jazz)
where: O’Neil Auditorium
when: Friday, October 24