It’s always interesting to check the date for famous birthdays or events and see where reflections will lead. Today, January 26, is the birthday of Stèphane Grappelli, French jazz violinist.
That’s right, violinists can be jazz musicians, and once you hear a sample, you’ll start appreciating, and I hope, admiring the style. In fact, stringed instruments lend themselves to jazz very well. Grappelli is known for his collaboration with Django Reinhardt, a gypsy jazz guitarist. What an interesting combo, gypsies and jazz! Both categories free spirited and unafraid the push the envelope with improvisation and creativity.
Grappelli’s childhood was a series of hardships. His mother died when he was four, and his Italian father was drafted to fight in WW I in 1914. Stèphane was left in the care of Isadora Duncan, (another free spirit) American dancer, but after she left France his father had to place him in an orphanage. Not a good memory, according to Grappelli. After the war, his Father bought him a violin. Grappelli was self taught, (his preference) but his Father enrolled him in the Conservatoire de Paris for a solid music education. Grappelli began his career as a violinist at 15, and collaborated with other jazz musicians in Europe, and later with musicians all over the world. In 1934 he formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Django, and included Joseph Reinhardt and Roger Chaput on guitar and Louis Vola on bass. They had a five year run until WW II began in 1939. Grappelli stayed in London during the war. Interesting note: George Shearing joined Grappelli’s band in 1940.
If you’re interested in learning how to play jazz, check out these titles from the NLS Music Section. Jazz Guitar Method, by Wes Montgomery, BRM 24559. Concerto for Classic Guitar and Jazz Piano by Claude Bolling, BRM 35683. Fake Book for jazz guitar, book one, BRM 24612. Fake Book for jazz guitar, book two, BRM 24399, available on BARD. Solos from Tommy Emmanuel’s album “Only”, BRM 35657. In audio format, we have Playing and Understanding Jazz Guitar, DBM 01489 by Fred Sokolow and Basic Jazz Guitar taught by Artie Traum, at DBM 02194. Marian McPartland interviews and plays with George Shearing on George Shearing, DBM 01242.
Stay cool, cats and au revoir, mes amis!