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Hot Club of San Francisco: Hot Club Cool Yule

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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The liner notes imply that this is the Christmas album Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli might have made, had they made one. Certainly the The Hot Club of San Francisco is a virtuosic group that specializes in conjuring that era (see their masterful Bohemian Maestro for a recent example). But there's a wealth of delicious humor here that goes beyond anything that legendary pair ever produced.

For instance, check out the inspired derangement of "Djingle Bells," and "Don Rudolfo" (as in Red-Nosed Reindeer), a sultry tango that ultimately flows into the "Habanera" from "Carmen" (honest). There's also a red-hot "Sugar Rum Cherry" that swings the Nutcracker into a whole new orbit. Yet just when you get used to a jovial ride, the Hot Club throws out a gorgeous string arrangement of "I Wonder As I Wander," getting serious about the season. And there are still more surprises to come, although it would be like giving away a movie plot to describe them all.

One thing is sure: however you deck your halls with music - whether you dig out that dusty stack of CDs, or cue your Yuletide playlist - this collection is so different from anything else that it's likely to make your guests pause, nogs in midair, to ask what it is. And you don't even have to answer: just show them the CD cover, where Santa drives a gypsy caravan instead of a sleigh. Brilliant and delightful!

Track Listing: Cool Yule; Don Rodolfo; Carol of the Bells; I'll Be Home for Christmas; Baby, It's Cold Outside; Djingle Bells; Sugar Rum Cherry; I Wonder as I Wander; March of the Toys; The Christmas Song; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Auld Lang Syne.

Personnel: Paul "Pazzo" Mehling: solo guitar, baritone guitar, vocals; Clint Baker: string bass, trumpet; Evan "Zeppo" Price: violin, octave violin (acoustic and electric); Jeff Magidson: rhythm guitar, bass, vocal; Jason "Jubilation" Vanderford: rhythm guitar. Guests: Isabelle Fontaine, The Cool Yule Philharmonic, Pazzo and the Hotheads, Le Jazz Hot Trio, Duo Gadjo, The Ivory Club Boys, the Cool Yule Philharmonic All-Stars.

Title: Hot Club Cool Yule | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Azica Records

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