Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

(b 26 January 1908, Paris, France; d 1 December 1997) Violinist. One of the very few non-American jazz musicians to become world-famous; with Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith, Jean-Luc Ponty, Svend Asmussen, Eddie South, Billy Bang, Ray Nance and Ray Kennedy one of the few jazz violinists (not all of these have made a living primarily on the violin). The name was formerly spelt 'Grappelly'. He became famous with Django Reinhardt in the Quintet of the Hot Club of France '34-9; also an accomplished pianist, playing piano on the famous Coleman Hawkins session of 28 April 1937 with Django, directed in Paris with Benny Carter. He spent WWII in England, made records with Reinhardt again there '46; later worked mostly in France, also toured the world. His unabashed romanticism was balanced by his ability to swing and logic in improvisation, he was long taken for granted; then duets on UK TV early '70s with Yehudi Menuhin were a delightful novelty: they made LPs on EMI including Tea For Two, Strictly For The Birds, Jealousy, Fascinatin' Rhythm etc (Grappelli allegedly had to write out Menuhin's 'solos' for him).

Among many albums: Skol and Tivoli with Oscar Peterson on Pablo; Reunion with George Shearing on Verve; Live with virtuoso mandolinist David Grisman on WB '81 made Billboard pop LP chart. Others: I Remember Django and Limehouse Blues (both with Barney Kessel), I Got Rhythm and Just One Of Those Things, all on Black Lion; I Hear Music on RCA; Violinspiration (with Diz Disley Trio), Afternoon In Paris and Violin Summit (with Smith, Ponty, Asmussen) all on BASF/MPS (other labels in USA); Venupelli Blues with Venuti on Byg; Feeling + Finesse = Jazz '62 (with Pierre Cavalli, guitar), Duke Ellington's Jazz Violin Session with Asmussen and Nance, Paris Encounter with Gary Burton, all on Atlantic; At The Winery '80, Vintage '81 and Stephanova '83 on Concord Jazz; Plays Jerome Kern '86 on GRP with strings; Uptown Dance on Columbia; others on EMI and French labels, plus many compilations of 78s with Reinhardt (see his entry). Live At The Blue Note on Telarc was recorded '85, with Jon Burr on bass, Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, all Grappelli's grace and esprit still intact, as it still was on Reunion '93, a duet with guitarist Martin Taylor, who also plays on Bringing It All Together on Cymekob, made in San Francisco with Toots Thielemans (who whistles on only one track), second guitarist Marc Fosset and bassist Brian Torff. He toured Japan, Europe and USA '96 aged 88; definitive profiles on television (TV Suisse Romande) and radio (BBC) produced and directed by Paul Balmer (Music on Earth Productions).