The Hot Club Of San Francisco goes Fab! The venerable Gypsy Swing Combo interprets The Beatles on the gorgeous album "John, Paul, George & Django." It was only a matter of time before guitarist Paul Mehling focused his creative mojo on Lennon and McCartney's vast and enduring treasure trove of songs. The founder and guiding spirit of the Hot Club of San Francisco, America's longest running Gypsy swing ensemble, Mehling was first inspired to pick up a guitar when the Beatles launched the British Invasion via Ed Sullivan's show on Feb. 9, 1964.
Now Mehling's HCSF is recolonizing the Fab Four's songbook in the name of Gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt with John, Paul, George and Django, a ravishing and consistently revelatory reimagining of classic Beatles tunes.
"We've been road testing arrangements and tune selections for several years and it's just gold," Mehling says. "These tunes were really well crafted, and our job is to present the songs through our prism. Our vision can be summed up as WWDD?: What Would Django Do? What if he hadn't died, and had lived long enough to interpret Beatles songs? Because you know he totally would have."
In many ways, Mehling planted the seeds for the project some two decades ago. On 1994s Quintet of the Hot Club of San Francisco the band interpreted And I Love Her, and a few years later on 1997s Swing This, Mehling found an ideal conduit for Gypsy soul in While My Guitar Gently Weeps. He wants to make clear that the albums title isnt intended to diminish Ringo Starrs essential contributions, noting that like Ella Fitzgerald interpreting Cole Porter, the album is about John, Paul, and George as composers. Their songs have rarely sounded so enthralling.
With its psychedelic production and hypnotic 5/4 groove, Fool On the Hill feels like Django traded Parisian nightlife for an acid test, a trip he thoroughly enjoyed. With French-born Hot Club rhythm guitarist Isabelle Fontaines simmering delivery of her translated lyrics If I Needed Someone turns into a Gallic torch song (and check out Mehlings brilliant interpolation of Within You Without You in his solo). Dont Bother Me bounces with a swinging reggae feel, and You Cant Do That gets to Paris via New Orleans with a washboard powered beat. You Dont See Me gets a straight ahead Gypsy swing treatment, and the woozy ballad Because turns into a brisk Gypsy jazz sprint.
Though the present lineup has been in place for more than five years, creating John, Paul, George and Django put the bands copacetic chemistry to the test. It was very contentious, especially the arranging, Mehling admits. Everybodys got really strong feelings about the Beatles. But Ive had the band almost 30 years and Evans been in it almost 18. Were all still friends and we worked it out! It took a long time to settle in on the program and then polish the arrangements. Weve already got a list for volume 2!
"Indicative of the concept's success, these interpretations give even listeners well steeped in all things Beatles a greater appreciation of the structural and melodic perfection of the original repertoire while also impressing with an imaginative approach to same... Live but full sonics lend immediacy to a most memorable outing." - David McGee, The Absolute Sound, April 2017, 3.5/5 Music, 4/5 Sonics
Limited Edition - 300 Copies
1. All My Lovin'
4. I Will
5. Here, There and Everywhere
6. You Won't See Me
7. The Fool On the Hill
8. If I Needed Someone
2. You Can't Do That
3. For No One
4. Don't Bother Me
5. Hey Jude / Duke & Dukie
6. Things We Said Today
7. Yellow Submarine