Les Chauds Lapins (“the hot rabbits”), lead by New York’s Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt, specialize in a repertoire of French swing from the 1920’s through the 40’s. The group has re-arranged long-forgotten French classics for banjo-ukes, string trio, guitar and winds, mixing the rootsiness of early American jazz with the lushness of a Bernard Hermann film soundtrack.
Prior to their turn as French entertainers, Meg Reichardt was best known as one fourth of Americana group The Roulette Sisters and Kurt Hoffman as co-leader of cult instrumentals band The Ordinaires, and as sideman and arranger for such luminaries as They Might be Giants, Frank Black and and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The music on Amourettes oscillates between romantic and quirky, retro and modern, French and American. It appeals equally to fans of roots music, swing and classic film soundtracks.
Like the French models they emulate, Les Chauds Lapins take their music off the grid. Their arrangements are true neither to time nor space. Their arrangements contrast scored strings and horns with vintage fretted instruments, most notably banjo ukuleles, a hybrid instrument popular in the 20s and 30s. “Due to the instrument’s stretched animal skin resonator, it’s got a distinctive sound, earthy, percussive and colored by surprising overtones. Need it be said, banjo ukes are not typical of French music at any point in history.” By mixing the Americana quirkiness of banjo-ukes with the narrative versatility of a string trio, they remain faithful to the inventive spirit of the original songs and give them a luster that eschews quaintness and easy cliché.