Veronica: The Hot Club of San Francisco

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After a brush with the avant-garde sounds and stylings to be found on Bobby Hutcherson’s Happenings, downwithit has decided to have a short excursion to one of my favourite cities, San Francisco.

Actually, I was planning to write about The Hot Club of San Francisco’s Veronica over the Christmas period. There was a long and convoluted reason for this, which involved a short story that I will write one day and the need for a jazz recording containing a reference to a Panda. I couldn’t find much- perhaps, had he lived, John Coltrane may have followed Giant Steps with a set entitled Giant Panda. Sadly we will never know. Anyway, to trim a tall tale, Veronica is released on the Panda Digital label, it’s cover features the Golden Gate Bridge and a painting of a West Coast belle. I parted with my £14.99 and soon the CD arrived.

Hot Club style Gypsy Swing is a bit of a departure at downwithit. I remain focused on Modern Jazz- but sometimes the saying: ‘a change is as good as a rest’ is appropriate. Actually, this music takes me back to my early explorations into jazz at the end of the 1970’s, when I bought and listened avidly to a double Vogue LP featuring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and their recordings from The Hot Club of Paris. Very fine music indeed! There’s a fascinating scholarly article from History Today about Django, jazz and the resistance to the Nazi occupation of Paris here.

Veronica is a chip from that block and a product of a Gypsy Jazz scene that has flourished on the West Coast of the USA. The title track displays the exuberant optimism that typifies this style. It strikes me as something of a hybrid with a bit of a Spanish flamenco feel in the mix, perhaps?

I’m Not Impressed is another track to get your blood moving and forget your cares to. If there was a fox in my garden it would definitely be trotting a grand old trot to this. Ersatz Samba is as described, another joyful sound. A Little Waltz For Misha is charming, deft and light, while Swing This swings.

Don’t Panic ups the tempo. With well over 20 Grant Green recordings in my collection, I’m fairly confident that he never played in this style, but I’m sure he would have enjoyed the challenge. Equally,I’m unsure if the great Kenny Burrell has ventured into this territory? Yerba Buena Bounce keeps the party going. Swing ’53 is an extended piece led by violinist, Evan Price. Giselle is a subtle guitar-centred waltz composition which conjures images of sunny summers days. Finally, DKSF closes matters.

While I don’t think I will be buying many more Hot Club style recordings, Veronica and my Hot Club of Paris sets will continue to be revisited from time to time. I’m sure this type of music is great live and I will try to check some out over the coming months.

There’s some footage of a slightly later incarnation of the band from 2004′ courtesy of Youtube below:-

Information about Hot Club of San Francisco band can be found here.

This will tell you that:-
EVERY MONDAY : Le Jazz Hot (the Quartet of the HCSF) plays for dancing, drinking and dining at Le Colonial in San Francisco 7-10pm FREE

Sounds great! If you are passing, pop in- I certainly would!

The band etc: Paul Mehling (guitar); Evan Price (violin); Joe Kyle (string bass); Davey Rickettsia (rhythm guitar); Michael Groh (rhythm guitar). Recorded: 2002. Coast Recorders, San Francisco. Produced by: Andrew A. Melter. Cover design: Dan Gatto (Veronica character created by Claudette Barjoud). Label: Panda Digital PDCD0211.

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