Rhythm Trio is The Hot Club of London.
Recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, November 5, 1973.
One of the best groups that violinist Stephane Grappelli collaborated with during the second half of his long career has been the Hot Club of London, a unit led by guitarist Diz Disley and usually including a second rhythm guitarist and a bassist. This Black Lion CD reissues the entire contents of a former two-LP set (I Got Rhythm) and even has room for a previously unreleased version of "Them There Eyes." Grappelli sounds particularly inspired playing with this group, very comfortable with the drumless setting and free to dominate the proceedings.
All Music Guide
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"Stephane Grappelli's chief asset is that he states a melody meaningfully and beautifully, and those statements stand up whether he is at the same time merely embellishing or really improvising". The American critic Martin Williams wrote those words in a 1958 edition of Down Beat magazine, a perceptive assessment for at that time mention of Grappelli's playing in a jazz magazine was rare at best. Fortunately things have changed for the better and Stephane has gone from strength to strength as a solo artiste in his own right. He has overcome the unfair dismissal of his work on record with the late Django Reinhardt and emerged as an important jazz voice. He has a wealth of music to offer and when he took part in a "violin summit" with Stuff Smith, Svend Asmussen and Jean-Luc Ponty he surprised many with the authority of his playing, just as Benny Carter emerged triumphant when in the company of Charlie Parker and Johnny Hodges on the famous "Funky Blues" jam session.
His choice of instrument has meant that many jazz enthusiasts have a built-in aversion to Stephane's work. Such an attitude indicates extreme bias and although violinists tend to be lumped in with the "miscellaneous instruments" in the jazz books and the popularity polls, the violin has a number of important qualities shared with precious few other instruments. Firstly it has a range which, by saxophone or brass standards, is considerable. Secondly by use of the bow it is possible to play phrases of limitless length, a quality denied to most wind instrumentalists with the exceptions possibly of men such as Harry Carney and Roland Kirk who have perfected the "continuous breathing" technique. Thirdly it has a brilliant tone capable of cutting through the drummer's cymbals or the deep noted lines of a bass player. With such an armoury at his command and a king-sized musical imagination it is hardly surprising that Stephane Grappelli has made a name for himself as one of the leading violin soloists in jazz.
On Guy Fawkes Night, 5th November 1973, Stephane and three men who formed the Hot Club of London, took over the stage of London's Queen Elizabeth Hall after the interval in a concert which had opened with the Humphrey Lyttelton band. The music they created is presented here and forms one of the most successful transcriptions of Stephane Grappelli's magic on record. The Hot Club of London Trio echoes but does not copy the music of the pre-war Quintet of the Hot Club of France. This trio has far greater rhythmic freedom and mobility, providing Grappelli with the support he needs, sensing his requirements as far as tempo and key changes are concerned and generally manifesting an aura of professionalism. Guitarist Diz Disley leads the Hot Club Trio and has been prominent in British jazz circles since the end of the nineteen-forties. Disley played banjo with the famed Yorkshire Jazz Band in 1949 and in 1950 at a time when the band had Dickie Hawdon on trumpet, a man who shifted his allegiances in later years and played the Clifford Brown-like solos with the Tubby Hayes and Johnny Dankworth orchestras. Disley formed his String Quintet in 1958 with a library based largely on that of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France; Diz's companion on many of the sessions was guitarist Denny Wright and the two have remained firm friends. Bass player Len Skeat is the ideal man for the job for, without a drummer, it is necessary to have someone with an unvarying sense of time and yet be capable of taking solos when necessary. Len's outstanding two choruses on the swinging Satin doll more than proves his ability as a soloist while the rock-steady tempos throughout bear testimony to his reliable time.
A Stephane Grappelli programme is almost bound to contain a high percentage of jazz standbys for the violinist came up in the era when Sweet Georgia Brown and Honeysuckle Rose were part of a jazzman's staple diet. The Queen Elizabeth Hall concert struck a careful balance between material dating from both before and after World War Two commencing with Rodgers and Hart's 1938-vintage This can 7 be love. At medium-fast tempo this is an ideal introduction to the quartet, the theme stated as carefully as Martin Williams suggested, Denny emerging from the rhythm section for a solo in the second chorus. I can't believe that you 're in love with me has some outstanding double-tempo phrases from the violin in the second chorus and a humourous interlude in the third when Denny copies Stephane's upper-register phrases.
At one time Flamingo was often to be heard in the jazz clubs of Europe but it has taken Stephane Grappelli to revive it. This version has a beautiful opening chorus full of glittering runs between the main notes of the melody, runs which recall the mastery of the late Art Tatum. (It is worth remembering that Stephane is an accomplished pianist whose style has obviously been affected by that of Tatum.) Duke Ellington's Satin doll is the kind of tune which defies classification. It has the deceptive simplicity of all great jazz compositions and seems to swing effortlessly from the first bar. This version ranks with the best and is a fine example of Grappelli at his most relaxed.
The next track is a tribute to Stephane's one-time colleague, the late Django Reinhardt. It is a fact that Django's superlative playing tended to overshadow the fact that he was a brilliant composer and the two tunes which Grappelli plays here give an indication of the breadth of Reinhardt's imagination. Manoir de mes reves (literally "home of my day dreams") is a beautiful composition which so appealed to Gerry Mulligan that he arranged it for his Concert Jazz Band and titled it Django's castle. It has the wistful quality of Reinhardt's slow-tempo music then Grappelli introduces a swift change of mood by sweeping into the up-tempo Daphne to bring this short tribute to a close.
The following performance is the kind which requires both musical and physical stamina as Stephane plays Tea for two. Opening with the verse the audience dutifully applauds when the better-known chorus commences; the slow tempo of the first chorus gives way to a faster pace for rest of the track with Grappelli setting the lines in motion which move lithely through the extended range of the instrument.
Grappelli points out that he had the honour of performing Honeysuckle Rose with the composer. Fats Waller, in London during 1938. Fats was here at the same time as the Quintet of the Hot Club which was appearing at the Palladium. (The quintet shared top billing with Tom Mix and his horse. "But if all London rushed to see the famous cowboy and his horse" remembers Grappelli "I can say in all honesty it was the quintet that saved the show!") At the Queen Elizabeth Hall conceit Stephane took Honeysuckle Rose at slow tempo in the first chorus, introducing blues-inflected phrases which seem to give the well-tried tune fresh qualities.
Misty is a tune which might almost have been written for Grappelli; like its composer, Erroll Garner, he has a love for sweeping cadences and logically resolved phrases. This version commences out of tempo with Stephane double-stopping (playing two strings simultaneously) and inserting runs of pizzicato grace notes. The tempo emerges in the second chorus and the lovely tune has run its course leaving the listener wanting more.
Next, the four men take off on a fine medium tempo version of the warhorse After you're gone, steadily whipping up excitement.
A further Django Reinhardt tune follows, the dreamy Nuages ("clouds") which closes with a coda of considerable length. Dr. Percy Scholes defines 'coda' in his Oxford Companion to Music as being "the term applied to any passage, long or short, added to the end of a composition in order to give a greater sense of finality" but not even Dr. Scholes could have visualised such an extended cadenza; in fact this section, with its complex double-stopping, becomes virtually a composition in itself. When the Guinness Book of Records has a section for The World's Longest Coda then Stephane's brilliant two and a half minutes here must surely qualify for entry.
The romping Sweet Georgia Brown acts as a prelude to a medley of songs written by George Gershwin. The jazz library has been enriched by Gershwin's tunes and Stephane has chosen four as a salute to this fine writer who died in 1937. The opening 'S wonderful comes from the 1927 Broadway show Funny Face: Grappelli's version is taken at medium tempo; Denny Wright's solo contains a hint of the harmonically similar Stupendous; a tune written by trumpeter Howard McGhee for a Charlie Parker session. The tempo slows down for a thoughtful reading of Summertime from the 1935-vintage Porgy and Bess which receives a well deserved round of applause from the audience. The two final Gershwin tunes both originated in the 1930 show Girl Crazy; Denny has a solo on But not for me and the quartet romps through I got rhythm to bring this truly memorable concert recording to its Finale.
- Alun Morgan.