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Published: 2005/04/04
by Brian Ferdman

Postcards From Gypsyland – The Hot Club of San Francisco

Lost Wax Records 0501

I am of the opinion that a great album emits a great vibe. Each individual song need not be a priceless gem, but when played together, the collected songs must produce a unique feeling in the listener, taking him to a new place. With its Old World mentality and distinctly Parisian feel, The Hot Club of San Francisco's Postcards from Gypsyland succeeds in transporting me to the banks of the River Seine. It evokes a time when life was carefree and full of romance.

The Hot Club of San Francisco's sextet of string-wielding master musicians relish the opportunity to pay tribute to their heroes, Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli. After a fateful night in a Paris nightclub, these two titans banded together with a few like-minded souls to form the wildly popular and tremendously influential Quintette du Hot Club de France. Throughout the late 1930s, they blended rural string music with cosmopolitan flair to create a new genre, Gypsy Swing. It was carefree music for lovers, who were oblivious to the ever-mounting threat of Hitler.

Gypsy Swing music is played without regard to the outside world, and whether The Hot Club of San Francisco is cutting loose on finger snapping ditties like "Lover's Leap," "Spivy," and a swinging version of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Song of India" or passionately winding through ethereal beauties like "Waltz Una Nota" or "Manoir de Mes Reves," this music is the perfect vehicle to escape from the drudgeries of everyday life. If your escapist fantasy involves romance, few songs in this world resonate with the passion of the gorgeous "Alle Prese con una Verde Milonga." As a delicate pulse begins, graceful string figures slowly evolve in gently flowing lines. A wonderfully mellow melody is nothing less than captivating, and lush orchestration underscores fantastically enchanting passages that seem to drift upon the clouds. Although this awe-inspiring number has no lyrics (like 99% of the album), it speaks volumes through vivid sonic imagery. This song seems to have leapt right off the reels of an Italian film, and hyperbole be damned, it's one of the most beautiful pieces of music to ever grace my ears.

I have found that Postcards from Gypsyland creates the perfect soundtrack to some very incongruous moments in life. As I sit amongst stressed-out commuters in rush-hour traffic or ride an absurdly noisy subway train, I can be oblivious to the world with this music dancing in my head. The music is so intoxicating that I’ve even been nearly run over by a furiously honking, law-breaking, overzealous driver, and after he jostled me from my world of musical comfort, I removed my headphones to shout, "YOU HAVE A STOP SIGN ASSHOLE!" Then I calmly hit play and nestled snuggly into my bubble on the West Bank with a glass of champagne in hand. Ah, life is good in Gypsyland.

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