recorded in France March 7,8,9, 1962
Although he was very active in France during the 1950s and '60s, violinist Stephane Grappelli recorded relatively little until 1969. This Atlantic LP from 1962 finds Grappelli in good form in a quintet with guitarist Pierre Cavalli, performing a Django-dominated repertoire that is not all that different from what he would be playing 30 years later.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Stephane Grappelly lives on the top floor of an old house high on the Butte Montmartre. The vast panorama of Paris can be admired from his windows, and Stephane enjoys telling the story of his life while pointing out the various monuments in the distance.
"There to the South," he will say, "is Montparnasse where Django Reinhardt came to hear me play at 'La Croix du Sud' in 1930.1 played any sort of music then, either on the piano or the sax but preferably on the violin. My father had bought me my first violin in 1920 when I was 12 years old. We went into a store just around the corner on rue Rouchechoaurt and the salesman sold us a 'three-quarter' I almost broke, I hugged it so hard on the way out.
"Later on, between classes at the conservatory of music, I'd listen to the Mitchell Jazz Band at a nearby dance hall called 'The Coliseum,' but I soon had to play my violin in the courtyards of Paris in order to eat. I'd pick up the coins thrown from the windows and run like crazy, chased by the concierge and the pails of water thrown after me by the nonmusical talents. Until one day, I ran across a strolling mandolin player who said he'd fix me up with something more 'business-like.' He did, For six hours a day, I played ragtime and Mozart before the screen showing silent movies.
"A bit later I met Stephane Mougin, one of the first of the French jazzmen, and thanks to him, I got work in the Gregor Orchestra, Gregor being a Continental version of Jack Hylton, Playing with me at the time were Alix Combelle, Philippe Brun, Leon Vauchant, and Andre Ekyan, and although we occasionally played something 'hot' for the public, we mostly just clowned around, Still, the days of poverty were over, and after Gregor, I worked at 'La Croix du Sud,' then at the 'Claridge' on the Champs-Elysees. And it was there that the String Quintette was born.
"We were all in the dressing room waiting to go on and Django was, as usual, plucking at his guitar. I just started improvising to his chords and Louis Vola, who happened to be present, thought it would be fun to add his bass fiddle to our duet. He joined in and so did Django's brother Thus was born a new jazz, without fanfare, without drums, and without trumpets. After a difficult beginning, Pierre Nourry, Hughes Panassie, and Charles Delaunay, who had recently founded 'The Hot Club of France' and 'Jazz Hot Magazine' helped us win a public, "In 1939, war broke out in Europe. We were in London at the time. Django returned to France, but I stayed on in Great Britain until 1946, and it was while I was playing in a pub with a young singer named Beryl Davis that I first saw a 19- year-old blind boy playing an accordion. His name was George Shearing and we name was George Shearing and we played together for a long time before he finally left to conquer the USA. Then the war came to an end and Django, the others, and I went back to our concerts and recordings, "Only something was very wrong with Django, He had been extremely disappointed by his New York failure and despite his enormous talent was saying he had enough of music and only wanted to paint or fish, He felt everyone was against him and that no one understood him. He and I were, all the same, supposed to leave for America when death broke the dream, "Like every Gypsy, Django was frightened stiff of doctors, During our times together, it was always I who had to drag him to the dentist or hospital by pretending we were going to see about a benefit, I often think that, had life not separated us so frequently, I might have been able to prevent his cruel and unnecessary death. "Since then, I've passed my time between Paris, Italy, and England. I work steadily: nightclubs, concerts, radio, and television, And I record - especially pop sessions. Sometimes someone will ask if I wouldn't rather relax and enjoy life. I answer that considering I started out by playing in courtyards, my greatest pleasure lies in having become and in remaining a recognized and respected artist who is looked after and... who is well paid." If Grappelly is considered to be one of the best violinists in all of Europe, for many he is also considered to be without rival in all of the world, A meticulous and ultra-conscientious musician who still has stage fright before each performance, he is also a very affable person ready for a smile or a laugh. He is absolutely mad about music and listens to jazz swaying back and forth with such vigor that it's a wonder he keeps his balance. But the most remarkable thing about Grappelly is that he has managed to avoid the brand of any one epoch, He first liked Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Dorsey, Red Nichols, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, and Duke Ellington. Then, during the "golden age" of the Quintette, he liked Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, and Fats Waller. Many soloists of Grappelly's generation, even the greatest among them, are fixed in the musical context of the post-war years and seem incapable of developing further. Such has never been Stephane's case. Nor have I ever heard him judge a musician's style. For him, the musician is either "good or bad," and he will speak with equal warmth of Bix Beiderbecke, Oscar Peterson, or John Coltrane.
His own style is that of a sensitive and refined musician who is both a sentimentalist and an artist, and to whom perfection is something very definite. He likes elegant, well-balanced, and melodic phrases and his improvisations are constructed with the logic of a person who thinks clearly and knows exactly where he wants to go. Because of this, even when Grappelly is farthest "out," he can always return with accuracy to the chords which are familiar, His temperament resembles that of a Ben Webster or an Ella Fitzgerald, which is to say that he and they like ballads and the melodies of popular songs.
This album has been recorded not in order to create the sort of music Stephane used to play with Django, but in order to return to the mood itself of the String Quintette. As accompanists, Stephane has chosen Pierre Cavalli, a very talented and well-known Swiss musician who is an excellent technician and "puncher." Second guitarist Leo Petit adds just the touch needed for reproducing precisely the color of the old Quintette sound. Guy Pedersen (bass) and Daniel Humair (drums) form the best rhythm section existing in Paris today. Here in France, we are so used to seeing the familiar profile of Stephane Grappelly among us that we all too often forget he is not only Django's companion of old, but also one of the best jazz musicians in all of jazz history, And that he plays better than ever!
- Frank Tenot (Editor-in-Chief, Jazz Magazine, Paris)