“Though Django and Stephane never had the opportunity to record a holiday record, we always wished they had. And operating as we do under the guiding principle of WHAT WOULD DJANGO DO? … we just had to do this.”
So reads a message from the Hot Club of San Francisco in the liner notes that accompany the quintet’s 12th and latest release Hot Club Cool Yule (Azica Records). Since the group’s birth some 20 years ago, it has followed a particular stylistic trail, blazed most notably by Gypsy jazz legends Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. As the note above implies, Cool Yule deviates from that path only in the group’s choice of material.
And so we get a dozen holiday tunes, most of them swinging merrily along on a bed of guitar, bass, violin and singing. There is standard fare (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Auld Lang Syne”) interspersed among vividly re-imagined chestnuts (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” recast in haba√Īera fashion as “Don Rudolfo”; a jaunty “Jingle Bells” – which cutely appears among the track listings as “Djingle Bells”). And then there’s clutch of songs that are neither standard nor, um, chestnutty, songs such as the Steve Allen-penned title track and the traditional Appalachian hymn “I Wonder as I Wander.” All told, it’s a varied, fun and festive set of material. Indeed, given the opportunity, it’s something that Django himself might’ve done.
Hot Club Cool Yule is set for an October 27 release. The band will play material from the album during a series of concerts in Mexico (at the San Miguel de Allende Festival de Jazz) and California throughout December. For tour dates and more information, go to www.hcsf.com.
Pictured above: The Hot Club of San Francisco with vocalist Isabelle Fontaine, who guests on Cool Yule. Photo credit: Stuart Brinin.