Django, Kamau, and the Cornish Capital
Music and memoirs round out the new releases.
The Hot Club of San Francisco: John Paul George & Django (Hot Club Records, HotClubSF.com)
Forget “the fifth Beatle,” a title held by Brian Epstein, George Martin, and Pete Best, among others. On its 12th album since 1993, the Hot Club of San Francisco declares Django Reinhardt the fourth Beatle. (Au revoir, Ringo?) Descendents of the Roma guitarist’s Paris-based Quintette du Hot Club de France (with violinist Stephane Grappelli), Paul Mehling, Evan Price, Sam Rocha, Isabelle Fontaine, and Jordan Samuels play Gypsy jazz acoustic guitars, violins, and string bass, add banjo, saw, and vocals, and bring in guests on sax, drums, melodica, and barrel organ. Summoning the spirit of Reinhardt, who died in 1953, they turn 15 Lennon/McCartney and George Harrison compositions, including “All My Loving,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Michelle,” “I Will,” and “Julia,” into swinging romps and Seine-side serenades.
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’4”, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell (Dutton, May 2017, 320 pp., $28)
Can’t get enough of sociopolitical funnyman W. Kamau Bell on the second season of his United Shades of America? His new memoir contemplates everything referenced in the title plus racism, feminism, blackness, sexism, entertainment, privilege, and then some. He’s funny, insightful, fresh, and unpredictable in too many areas to tick off. He’ll have you at The Hulk, beenie weenies, and Black Raggedy Andy, and that’s very early on. His booming laugh seems to leap up off the pages, daring you to try to ignore what’s coming next on his provocative pipeline.
—Judith M. Gallman
Gold Miner’s Daughter: A Memoir of Boom, Bust and Bliss in the High Sierra by Mabel W. Thomas edited by Laura R. Thomas (Ingram Spark, 2017, 224 pp., $17)
Laura Thomas of Alameda deftly presents the story of her great-aunt Mabel Thomas’ early childhood years from 1885 to 1890, beginning in Grass Valley, the Cornish Capital of America for attracting men from Cornwall for quartz mining. Mabel enjoyed a 40-year career at the Oakland Library, becoming the chief reference librarian. After 50 years of thumbing through the manuscript, the author—a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, editor, and cofounder of Renewed Hope—polished it up for publication. Mabel traces her family’s move from a house on Lloyd Street to the remote, rugged gold mountain town of Sierra City.
—Judith M. Gallman
Published online on June 8, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.