A 'chaud lapin' in French, literally means a 'hot rabbit'. But really it refers to the people who are endlessly hot to trot. It is in the spirit of these raffish seekers that Les Chauds Lapins presents their debut album, "Parlez-moi d'amour" ('speak to me of love'), a collection of 13 French songs from the jazz era entirely focused on the topic of love and lust.
A breezy mini-orchestra that features banjo ukes viola, cello and upright bass, Les Chauds Lapins, with their charming American accents, present songs from the repetoire of such artists as Charles Trenet, Mistinguett, Josephine Baker, Edith Piaf, Jean Sablon and Lucienne Boyer. Which is to say, a set of passionate and witty songs from a time when French music was infusing American jazz and swing elements into their own highly melodic and verbal song style.
Les Chauds Lapins "Parlez-moi d'amour" personnel:
Meg Reichardt (vocals, banjo uke, guitar)
Kurt Hoffman (vocals, banjo uke, arrangements)
Karen Waltuch (viola),
Garo Yellin (cello),
Andy Cotton (bass)
Frank London (trumpet).
In Les Chauds Lapins, Meg Reichardt reveals herself to be a complex and charming vocal stylist, effervescing through the cheeky "Il m'a vue nue" ('He saw me nude"), and smoldering in Piaf's darker "J'ai danse avec l'amour" . On urbane ballads like "Si tu m'aimes" ("If you love me...") and "Ces petites choses" (a French re-write of "These Foolish Things") she displays a deft combination of swank and disarming directness. With her American blues and country inflected guitar and banjo uke playing, she brings an uncanny touch of Americana to this classic French repetoire. Meg Reichardt is also known for her work with the Roulette Sisters (whose album, "Nerve Medicine is also available at CD Baby), a group that also specializes in the music from the first half of the twentieth century, albeit from the American side of the pond.
Kurt Hoffman the crooning tenor who sings several songs by Charles Trenet, is also the arranger of the project. Describing the genesis of the project, Hoffman recounts,"Meg and I had worked up this little set of French songs on our ukes. Eventually it got more serious and we decided to add this ensemble of low strings -- viola, cello and bass -- to the high pitched ukuleles. The combination worked great -- the banjo ukes are not only high pitched, but there's also something intractably unserious about them. It's like they're built for simple pleasure and there's no getting around it. On the other hand our string players, are very sophisticated -- able to do classical music as well as all kinds of pop and avante-garde stuff, they're able to provide this fanciful world of much more sophisticated colors and moods. I'd done all kinds of film-scoring and writing for various ensembles, including an early swing band I led in the 90s (the Band of Weeds) -- for me it was knitting together all these disparate elements of music that I loved. And the funny thing is that most of these disparate elements (jazz, classical, high,low) are found in this French Music Hall repetoire." M. Hoffman has played and arranged for the Ordinaires, the Band of Weeds, They Might Be Giants, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.