Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stephane Grappelli: "The Best Ambassador For The Violin We've Ever Had"

Today marks the birthday of one of my favorite jazz artists, the violinist, Stephane Grappelli. He was born is Paris in 1908, grew up poor and made a marginal living playing the violin in the streets and accompanying silent films on the piano. In 1934 he met a gypsy guitarist named Django Reinhard and with him formed a quintette - Hot Club de France - that would make history in the world of jazz and popular music. Grappelli made his American debut in 1969, long after the Hot Club dissolved, and enjoyed a second career playing to admiring fans around the world until months before his death in 1997.

The artist in rehearsal                                                    Photo: Murdo MacLeod

Like his friend, Jdango, Grappelli was a self taught musician who developed a unique playing style. He outlived Reinhardt by nearly fifty years going on to perform solo and with many of the jazz greats of the twentieth century. 

In addition to his marvelous talent Grappelli possessed a jovial, upbeat, personality and style that endeared him to audiences young and old, large and small. One would think that a jazz virtuoso would be well known in the country that birthed the genre but he was little known in the United States even after thirty years of success in Europe.  How thankful we should be that he was "rediscovered" here and lived to entertain us for nearly thirty more 

The title quote comes from a December 19, 2007  Guardian article by Nigel Kennedy. 


Photos and Illustrations:

Kennedy quote, http://www.theguardian.com/music/2007/dec/19/jazz.urban

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