'swing 42' and 'honeysuckle rose' were not released on the original LP, recorded at July, 1981
For this outing, veteran violinist Stephane Grappelli (then 73) jams a variety of standards (several of which he had not recorded previously) with guitarists Martin Taylor and Mike Gari (in addition to bassist Jack Sewing). Grappelli, who switches to electric piano for Taylor's "Jamie" and adds Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" to his repertoire, displays an open mind toward new music while retaining his classic swing style.
All Music Guide
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Some things never change except for the better. Thumbing through collections of his work dating back to his mid-1930's recordings with the Quintet of the Hot Club de France, I found Stephane Grappelli parenthetically referred to as "still playing well at age 33" on a 1961 album release.
Twenty years later, were that same writer to pass judgment on Grappelli's violin form, he would have to revise the earlier observation to "playing better than ever at age 73."
There's no denying the fact, be you a Grappelli fan from his Django Reinhardt days or, like more and more young people of today, just beginning to catch up with this legendary master of the jazz violin.
It is, indeed, truly amazing how Grappelli has been able to acquire a large following of new enthusiasts during the past 10 years or so without compromising an iota of his classic jazz style. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where there is a vast and steadily growing interest in acoustical string band music among young people, Grappelli's concerts are consistently packed with devotees who weren't even alive when he was making musical history with Reinhardt, the great gypsy guitarist who died in 1934.
Grappelli's popularity, like that of an Andres Segovia, has nothing to do with nostalgia. Genius must eventually be recognized, even if it takes three or four decades of proving it.
Two players from Grappelli's magnificent Concord Jazz debut, At the Winery (CCD-4139), Dutch bassist Jack Sewing and young British guitarist Martin Taylor, are back with him on this outing, with yet another gifted young guitarist. New Yorker Mike Gari, rounding out the team.
At first glance, the tunes - except for the Taylor original, Jamie, and Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely - might seem a rather conventional set of standards. The truth of the matter is that great pains were taken to select numbers either never recorded by Stephane or not performed by him for a number of years.
While it is virtually impossible to find a single respectable melody that hasn't at some time been embellished by his powerful tone quality and interpretive genius, the present collection obviously is one which piqued his performing appetite.
George Gershwin's But Not for Me, for example, turned out to be a tune Grappelli hadn't played for some 40 years. He gets into it with the ardor of a youngster attacking his first hot dog at a baseball game. Similarly, the two standard "Moon" songs, Blue and Paper, are treated like freshly-discovered masterpieces, as is the jazz evergreen, I'm Coming Virginia.
If you thought I Can't Get Started was primarily a showcase for trumpet layers, from Bunny Berigan to Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson, wait until you hear Grappelli's cello-like version on amplified violin. For a further demonstration of his versatility, he switches to electric piano for an exquisite duet with Taylor on Jamie. Louis Alter's Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans, usually performed by groups of the traditional jazz persuasion, proves perfect grist for the Grappelli mill, as well it should; this much under-rated composer gave us such gems as "Manhattan Serenade," You Turned the Tables on Me" and a song the late Joe Mooney sang into immortality, "Nina Never Knew."
This is at least Grappelli's third recorded version of the 1929 beauty, If I Had You, over a 43-year span. Great tunes like this one tend to stick with an artist of Stephane's taste, as will Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely, rapidly becoming a favorite with discriminating jazzmen.
It should be noted that Taylor and Gari are welcome additions to Concord Jazz's galaxy of guitar masters. Gari takes the first of the two guitar solos on Blue Moon and also is featured on Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans and at the beginning of If I Had You.
Sewing and Taylor continue their sterling work from the At the Winery album and Grappelli-well, he just keeps rolling on in his inimitable fashion. You can just see the words some enchanted listener will pen 10 years hence: "Better than ever at 83."
-Gordon Raddue (Richmond (CA) Independent-Gazette)