Hot Club of San Francisco stopped by the Strings studio to perform three songs off of their Beatles-inspired latest album, John, Paul, George & Django. Watch the quintet perform “Michelle,” “If I Needed Someone,” and “Hey Jude/Duke & Dukie.”

Read more about Hot Club’s John, Paul, George & Django below in our album review:

john-paul-george-django[1]John, Paul, George & Django
Hot Club of San Francisco
(Hot Club Records)

With this whimsical manouche meets Mersey Beat collection, the Hot Club of San Francisco pays exuberant tribute to their twin inspirations. Fleet-fingered guitar legend Django Reinhardt is of course the raison d’être for this string combo. Here they layer their Django-styled acoustic jazz gloss on the Fab Four songbooks—Harrison’s and Lennon/McCartney’s. (Ringo Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden” gets a pass.)

There are some easy pickings here—fairly obvious transpositions of skip-a-beat skiffle to a whirligig around the Roma campfire, but even these bear the mark of genuine jazz—improvisatory runs on a free flowing round robin of solos. “All My Lovin’” rides Paul Mehling’s bell-toned Dupont in a jubilant arrangement that reminds us that Reinhardt’s string-band grooves were a key influence on Western swing. An insouciantly swinging “You Won’t See Me” builds on flanged guitar chords and Evan Price’s corkscrewing violin.

More often, the Hot Club’s gypsy-jazz caravan strikes out in unexpected directions. “Fool on the Hill” is string-band psychedelia bubbling up from Mehling’s haunted subterranean banjo. Isabelle Fontaine’s French-language vocal recasts Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone” as saucy chanson. With plucked pizzicato violin and slippery scrawling guitar, a Latin-flavored “Hey Jude” bounces to a sun-dappled bossa nova beat as it interpolates Reinhardt’s “Duke & Dukie.”

The Beatles connection runs deep with this crew. Hot Club founder Mehling first picked up a guitar after seeing the Liverpudlian quartet on the Ed Sullivan Show, and his combo has covered Beatles tunes prior to this set. John, Paul, George & Django entwines the best of both worlds—the Beatles’ challenging yet accessible melodies and Reinhardt’s quicksilver exploratory grooves. It’s a Gordian knot that’s too enjoyable to untangle.

—Pat Moran