First encounter with
Les Chauds Lapins

The Antenne-A festival once again proves its flair with programming.

By Patrick Caux
(Le Devoir, Quebec City Oct. 5, 2007)

Québec — Direct from Brooklyn, les Chauds Lapins land at the Antenne-A festival with their jazzy French songs. In their luggage, they bring 'Parlez-moi d'amour', an album that is luminous, romantic, with a touch of naivité, and which is finally being distributed here.

" Our love story with old French songs began a few years ago," explains Kurt Hoffman. "Like everyone, we knew a bit of Trenet, Piaf and Josephine Baker. When we began to explore the lesser known repertoire of French artists of the 30s and 40s, we immediately fell under its charm."

For those who like playing the game of comparisons and easy references, we'd have to say that Les Chauds Lapins' project might make one think of Pink Martini. We find the jazzy musical structures, and the native English speakers (Meg Reichardt and Kurt Hoffman) who sing in French with a completely irresistible accent. What's different from Pink Martini is that the sound of Les Chauds Lapins is a lot more roots, anchored deeply in the American tradition of early jazz and swing.

" Back then, there were a lot of exchanges between the U.S. and France," continues Meg Reichardt. "There was a sort of collision between their musical cultures. The French chanson became wedded to the rhythm of jazz." Inspired by that period, the New York Francophiles have reprised numbers from the French repertoire (like Piaf's "J'ai dansé avec l'amour" and Trenet's "J'ai connu de vous") to which they've added original orchestrations inspired by the musical styles in vogue during that period.

The result is frankly seductive. The clarinet and trumpet bring a jazzy texture, whereas the banjo uke — an instrument born of the hybridization between the banjo and the ukulele — adds a refreshing color in which one senses just a hint of bluegrass. The presence of the strings (violin, cello, and contrabass) gives depth and warmth to the ensemble. We bet that the first trip of Les Chauds Lapins to Quebec City (they appeared at Pop Montreal on Wednesday) strongly risks marking the beginning of a long love story.

(translated by Kurt Hoffman)


Première rencontre avec Les Chauds Lapins
by Patrick Caux /
Le Devoir, Québec, oct 5 2007