Back for their third appearance with Jazz in the Neighborhood is Le Jazz Hot, the quartet version of the Hot Club of San Francisco. Led by guitarist Paul “Pazzo” Mehling, the ensemble includes vocalist and rhythm guitarist Isabelle Fontaine, jazz violinist Evan Price, and star Sam Rocha on bass.
Paul Mehling has been dubbed the godfather of American gypsy jazz. He discovered the music of Django Reinhardt and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France in grammar school, and decades later the music that took root in his young soul finally bore fruit.
Critics have noted that the music of Mehling and the Hot Club of San Francisco owes as much to 52nd street as gypsy jazz, a characterization Mehling doesn’t dispute. “We have a swing or die approach to the music that’s distinctly American. We’re trying to challenge the tendency to slavishly imitate Django’s style, without watering down the gypsy tradition or diluting the music. We bring out the visceral element of the music that Serge told me is so important. When I talk with gypsy musicians, they say that they love what we do because they can tell we love the music. If people dig our music, when gypsy bands come to America, there will be an audience waiting to hear them.”
Isabelle Fontaine was born and raised in the French countryside with the voices of Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, and Yves Montand ringing in her ears. She originally had no intention of becoming a professional musician but when she started singing with a group of friends for fun, her talent was immediately recognized and her life took an unexpected turn. She spent the next twenty years singing and playing the snare drum to the jumping jive music of the 50’s throughout France, with detours to Spain and over the Alps to Switzerland. During this period, she was eventually drawn to the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt and The Hot Club of France, and it wasn’t long before she picked up the guitar and applied her impeccable sense of rhythm to the stringed instrument.
Evan Price is a ten-year veteran of the world-renowned, paradigm-shifting, jazz ensemble the Turtle Island Quartet. During his tenure in Turtle Island, he gave over five hundred performances in concert venues from Latvia to Australia and had the opportunity to collaborate with many musical luminaries, such as Cuban clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera and pianists Dr. Billy Taylor and Kenny Barron.
In addition to his in-depth study of classic bass playing, Sam Rocha has absorbed the nuances of classic jazz tuba, cornet, and guitar playing, and he regularly performs on those instruments as well. Quickly becoming one of the rising stars of the traditional jazz and gypsy swing circuit, Rocha is known for his innate musicality and rhythm and for his inventive, melodic solos.