PRAISE FOR Patrick Berrogain’s HOT CLUB COMBO’S debut
Patrick Berrogain's Hot Club Combo
by Craig Yerkes, San Diego Troubadour
As soon as I heard the guitar and accordion playing the harmonized melody line on 'Nomadic Thoughts,' the opening track of this fine disc, I knew I would love this stuff! Patrick Berrogain has a harmonic sensibility that really gives this music wings. As I have said before in earlier reviews of Gypsy jazz recordings, I tend to lose interest rather quickly because often the emphasis seems to be on musicianship rather than on the music itself.
You won't find that Gypsy curse at work here. Many of the tunes (including the opener) are original compositions by Berrogain himself and I actually like those the most. In particular, 'Material for Tears' is a melancholy swing ballad that truly conveys the emotional thread running through the heart of this style of jazz. For me, that emotional thread is the idea that this joyful music actually comes from a place of heartbreak and struggle. The guitar solo on the piece instantly became one of my all-time favorite jazz guitar solos (and I have heard many!), especially because of the way Berrogain departs from the more straight ahead phrasing of the melody and swings his solo something wicked.
On all of the original compositions, there is a wonderful playfulness where the melodies dance just between being pleasingly straight ahead and devilishly 'outside' (think dissonant for those unfamiliar with jazz vernacular). This marriage of dual harmonic approaches really shines on 'Swing for Dexter' where the melody is so sly that you can almost picture the band smiling like Cheshire cats while playing this sneaky stuff. Of course, no disc in this genre would be complete without a couple of Django tunes and on 'Black and White' (and on two other tunes elsewhere on the disc), Gypsy master Angelo Debarre adds his stunning guitar wizardry to the mix. One nice surprise is a lovely version of 'La Vie En Rose,' sung beautifully by Rosemary Watson and arranged by Patrick Berrogain. I have heard many versions of this tune and I have to say that this is my new favorite because of the way the slow tempo and simplicity in the arrangement allows the melody to breathe so completely. 'Fantasy on a Norwegian Dance' is a haunting ballad featuring both Berrogain and Debarre dishing out some of the most tasteful guitar work you're likely to hear anywhere. Lou Fanucchi, Tripp Sprague, John Leftwich, and Kevin Hennessy (on accordion, sax, and bass) fall right in line with Berrogain's musicality and add their own flair to help complete this satisfying musical landscape. I loved pulling up a chair at this Hot Club and my guess is that you will too.
West Swing-Hot Club of San Diego
A NEW TAKE ON CLASSIC GYPSY JAZZ GENRE PRODUCED BY HOT CLUB OF SAN DIEGO'S PATRICK BERROGAIN AND ALAIN COLA FOR DELL'ARTE RECORDS
Here's a sweet, swinging, relaxed set of tunes in the Gypsy jazz fashion, offered with a bit of West Coast polish by The Hot Club of San Diego. The group (HCSD) is increasingly popular locally and, as the CD will prove deserves even more attention. The group is cohesive, fresh and relaxed, while capturing the manouche feel and giving it an original twist. It does this with consistent melodic and rhythmic excellence. There is no inner tension or competition or virtuosity acrobatics to distract us from the beauty of the well done pieces.
Many of the pieces are Berrogain originals with a new slant on Gypsy jazz, and will be worthy additions to the ever-growing Gypsy song book. I really enjoyed the peppy "Bon Voyage" and "The Shape of Things to Come." The former conjures vision of Gypsy children running in play, and the latter, more a romantic offering, brings us a warm summer night in the Samois on the banks of the Seine River. Django tunes are here: "Folie a Amphion" and "Nuages." The latter was recorded live on KSDS radio, a very sensitive performance of the Gypsy jazz theme.
"Autumn Leaves," another favorite, is as pleasing a Gypsy waltz as one could want.
Alain Cola proves to be as good a vocalist as rhythm guitar player with his rendition of "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon." The guitars used on this CD were Dell'Arte, and add to the talent of the performers to give a clear, warm tone to the tunes. Patrick Berrogain plays the heads and guitar solos with a crisp and clean technique. His lines are tasty and much more than technical dazzle. His solos will keep your interest, and are matched by his compositional skills.
This CD is a winner. It's as easy to enjoy, with a little dance, some toe-tappin, and a smile and occasionally a tear. Then it will be revisited frequently, like a good California Cabernet.
Reviewed by Dr. Frank Forte
Just Jazz Guitars No.39 May 2004 (p.158
HOT CLUB of SAN DIEGO'S WEST SWING.
Thanks to such bands as Seattle's Pearl Django and the Hot Club of San Francisco, a distinctly West Coast Gypsy jazz sound has been gaining attention worldwide. On its debut CD, the Hot Club of San Diego, founded by expatriate French guitarists Patrick Berrogain and Alain Cola (of Dell'Arte Instruments) brings another authentic voice to the Jazz Manouche movement from America's far western shores. Berrogain shows admirable restraint in the dramatic chromatic licks and artfully arpeggiated lead lines he plays against Cola's beguiling rhythm guitar. On a tune like "Autumn Leaves" that has been done so often those leaves should be compost by now, Berrogain finds a clever melodic niche, using swinging octaves in his solo, and never overplays. Guest violinist John Stubbs avoids the obvious references to Stephane Grappelli, injecting his own sense of swing on several tunes, including Berrogain's sublime "Conversation." The band makes a few musical moves away from the all-string Gypsy jazz format, adding saxophone to its version of Reinhardt's "Folie a Amphion" and using accordion to evoke the Parisian bistros that figured prominently in the music's formation before World War II. Berrogain composed nine of the CD's 15 tracks, including enthusiastically rhythmic songs like "The Gypsy Bug" and "Gadjo de Luxe" and the elegant "the Shape of Things to Come" that could easily become Gypsy jazz standards.
Acoustic Guitar, October 2004 (p.38)
The Hot Club of San Diego's WEST SWING (Dell'Arte Records) is a fine collection of European swing classics, musette, chanson, modern jazz and band originals. Led by solo guitarist Patrick Berrogain and rhythm man, Alain "Papy" Cola - the impresario behind Dell'Arte Guitars - the band is tight and accomplished.
May 2004 (p.136)
A New Twist on an Old Favorite
Patrick Berrogain's Hot Club Combo: A New Twist on an Old Favorite
by Craig Yerkes San Diego Troubadour
As I sit with my vodka tonic and look around the room, I see what I would not expect to see at a San Diego bar on Tuesday night: a large group of patrons actually listening to the musicians who are working hard to entertain them. The crowd looks like they're equal parts delighted and hypnotized by this seductive music and I find myself caught up in the magic as well. Some of the crowd seems to know the performers while others have just wandered in and become caught up in the sounds and, to my surprise, I see every age group represented, all showing equal enthusiasm for what they hear. In a thick French accent, the guitarist greets the audience, and the uninitiated among the crowd discover that they owe their current state of musical bliss to Patrick Berrogain's Hot Club Combo.
Born in the south of France, San Diego jazz guitarist Patrick Berrogain grew up in the country where Django Reinhardt and his Quintette du Hot Club de France began enchanting audiences with their new sounds back in the mid-1930s. The innovative melodic and rhythmic approaches that Django and his counterparts began to incorporate in those early days would push the boundaries of jazz and go on to create a lasting musical sensation known as 'Gypsy' and/or 'hot club' jazz. Some refer to this music as simply 'Django' style jazz, but whatever you call it, there is no denying the world-wide appeal associated with this genre. For my money, one of the most intoxicating elements of this music is its ability to transport the listener to another place, time, and state of mind. If a trip to France and/or a time machine isn't in your travel budget this year, I suggest putting on some French duds and getting to where you can hear some 'hot club' music. And if you're in San Diego, the only real game in town is Patrick Berrogain's Hot Club Combo.
Ironically, it wasn't until 1998 (long after leaving France and relocating in the U.S.) that Berrogain really embraced the Django style and began to pursue making music in that direction. Up until that time, he was busy establishing himself in the broader world of jazz and jazz/fusion as a guitarist and composer/arranger. After graduating (with special honors) from the world famous Musician's Institute of Technology and also the renowned Dick Grove School of Music, Berrogain made his way to San Diego. While at M.I.T., the young Berrogain was fortunate enough to study with some of the great jazz guitarists of our time (including local hero Peter Sprague, who was a big part of the move to San Diego). Back in the late '90s, in an effort to give an outlet to his new-found passion for Gypsy/hot club jazz, Berrogain formed the successful Hot Club of San Diego, building a loyal following and garnering rave reviews over a nine-year run. In addition to leading his band, Berrogain also kept himself busy with other projects such as collaborations with world famous Gypsy jazz master Angelo DeBarre, plus other playing and composing/arranging gigs outside of the Gypsy genre.
This brings us up to 2007 and the birth of our subject's latest project: Patrick Berrogain's Hot Club Combo. With a brand new CD (reviewed this month, page 13), a steady Tuesday night gig at the Prado restaurant in Balboa Park (where the band continues to enjoy a robust attendance) and an upcoming recurring weekly show at the House on the Hill in Poway (starting July 18, www.house-on-hill.com), the band is in full swing (pun intended). The personnel of the Hot Club Combo is fluid (with the exception of Berrogain), employing a variety of musicians for different shows. The main difference from the days of the Hot Club of San Diego is the switch from a two-guitar lineup to guitar and accordion (played with blistering mastery by Lou Fanucchi).
I recently spoke with Berrogain and asked him to explain his own personal approach to this much beloved form of music that now takes up most of his time. For me, personally, one stumbling block I've had with regard to really tuning into the current Gypsy/Django school of playing is the fact that it tends to be highly stylized, and players seek to stay very true to a uniform approach. In other words, I have found a certain redundancy in this genre, making it sometimes hard for me to connect to the music amid all of the rapid-fire notes and familiar riffs. Berrogain shares my view on the dangers of falling into a rut of form vs. substance while playing this kind of music and explains, 'If you take five hardcore Gypsy-style guitarists and listen to them all, you would have to be very familiar with this type of playing to even tell them apart.' He went on to say that while he has always had great respect for the technical virtuosity that Gypsy/Django style guitarists typically possess, Berrogain has 'no desire to be known as the fastest or most technically proficient Gypsy guitarist out there.' For our subject, the trick is to bring his own musicality to the art form and create a sound that pays supreme honor to the past while also striving to make it fresh. While Berrogain certainly does dazzle with his fretwork (and Fanucchi on accordion will make your head spin!), the main focus here is not to show how fast someone can navigate their instrument, but rather making music that sounds beautiful and exciting - something an audience can connect with.
This brings us back to me and my vodka tonic (okay, maybe my second one) and a night that is about to be over for this wonderful band and their enthusiastic listeners. The music ends too soon, but this is San Diego (the land of early closing times) and it's a weeknight, so the band says goodnight and we all say thank you. There is only one CD left on the merchandise stand and I have a feeling that many of these people will be back for more. Patrick Berrogain and his Hot Club Combo stand poised to serve up Gypsy jazz with an overriding musicality that elevates the experience into something truly unique. Vive le Hot Club!!