Hot Club of San Francisco | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hot Club of San Francisco 


If you have a more than passing knowledge of jazz history, or just a special fascination with the fledgling European jazz scene of the 1930s, then the name of this group tells you a lot. "Hot Club of San Francisco" suggests that this band reveres the music of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, the band in which the virtuoso Belgian Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt met up with the French violin sensation Stephane Grappelli. It also lets you know that the music will mirror the minor-key drama of the earlier band's repertoire and instrumentation (which featured all strings--violin, guitars, bass), and that they have set themselves the unenviable task of inviting comparison to one of jazz's most lionized ensembles. Fortunately, the guitar soloist and leader, Paul Mehling, is just about up to the task. Mehling rarely achieves the fiery intensity of Reinhardt--for that you can check out the teenage phenomenon Jimmy Rosenberg, who leads the group Sinti--but Mehling still manages to capture the dark, rough-hewn fun of the original Hot Club. Similarly, violinist Jenny Scheinman doesn't touch the master Grappelli--who does?--but she has all the technique she needs, and she gets the attitude of the music dead on, which is half the battle. Behind them, the rhythm guitars and bass achieve an enviable unity of pulse and accent; the solos float above the beat like a carelessly tossed scarf over a campfire. On Saturday the Hot Club of San Francisco shares the bill with Chicago Latin dance band Orquesta Atipica; the evening has consequently been given the epithet "Django and Tango" (but not by me). Friday, 9 PM, Pops for Champagne (where you may have trouble making out the music over the amplified conversation at the bar), 2934 N. Sheffield; 773-472-1000. Saturday, 10 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 773-327-6666. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): band photo.

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