Saturday, 14 October 2017

Stephane Grappelli : Meets Barney Kessel

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  • Published on Friday, 29 November 2013 17:26
  • Written by Super User
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I Remember Django - 4.47
Honeysuckle Rose - 6.17
I Can'T Get Started - 3.02
What A Difference A Day Made - 3.04
More Than You Know - 4.10
Et Maintenant - 3.41
I Found A New Baby - 5.57
It'S Only A Paper Moon - 3.43
Now High The Moon - 5.05
Willow Weep For Me - 2.42
Little Star - 4.31
Undecided - 5.26


Europe's greatest single gift to jazz so far has been Django Reinhardt. Apart from his skill as a guitarist, he was also a composer of distinction and it is surprising that so few jazz musicians have made use of his works. (Gerry Mulligan's adaptation of Manior De Mes R'ves for his Concert Band under the title Django's Castle gives an indication of the rich vein which might be mined should an arranger turn his attention to the works of Reinhardt.) For much of his lifetime, Django was linked musically with the violinist, Stephane Grappelli. It would be difficult to imagine two men further removed from each other in the social and intellectual spectrum. Django was born into poverty, in a gypsy caravan parked temporarily at Liverchies near Charleroi in Belgium on the night of January 23, 1910. Right up until his death in hospital at Fontainebleau on May 15, 1953, he remained an essentially simple person, almost incapable of even writing his name and delighting principally in playing billiards and fishing with his friends. He was a self-taught musician, who overcame a tremendous tragedy at the age of eighteen; a fire in his caravan robbed him of the use of two fingers on his left hand. He was forced to devise new unorthodox methods of fingering the strings. By contrast, Stephane Grappelli was, and is, a witty conversationalist, a man of elegant appearance and natural grace. He was born in Paris on January 26, 1908 and had a formal musical education commencing with study of the harmonium. He played violin in a theatre orchestra before working in a band which eventually toured the Argentine. Back in Paris at the end of 1931, Grappelli was playing at the Croix du Sud in Montparnasse with saxophonist Andre Ekyan. One night three or four men came in and stared attentively at the band. 'They were of such dubious appearance' remembers Stephane, 'that I thought they might be gangsters or, worse still, gangsters who disliked our music'. They were, in fact, gypsies, one of them being Django Reinhardt. Thus began an association which was to last twenty-one years. Through records - and principally those of the successful Quintette of the Hot Club de France - Django's music became world-famous. By association, Stephane Grappelli also made a name for himself. Violinists in jazz have never existed in very great numbers and before the war Grappelli shared the spotlight with precious few others, notably Eddie South and Stuff Smith. Reinhardt became the idol of many guitarists. Indeed his influence is still very strong, though sometimes it is secondhand in the sense that others have been credited with 'introducing' effects which were, in fact, Reinhardt's innovations. For example, the late Wes Montgomery is thought by many to have invented the method of playing in which he used the fleshy part of the thumb to strike two strings simultaneously. Reference to many pre-war Reinhardt records reveals that Django was doing this before Wes had even thought of taking up the instrument. When Barney Kessel was in Paris in the summer of 1969, he sat in with Stephane Grappelli during the latter's engagement at the Paris Hilton. The pair hit it off so well that it was decided to make some recordings in a setting which approximated to the old Quintette line-up. (In fact, the original QHCF instrumentation comprised violin, three guitars and bass.) Although Barney admired Django's music, he did not make an attempt to sound like him at the session. Indeed, if he had, it would have been a mistake. Inst ead, it is clear that Barney fell back on his earliest and strongest influence, the late Charlie Christian. A few weeks before the Grappelli date, I had a long conversation with Barney during the course of which he explained how he had met and played with Christian for a period of just three days. But those three days' tuition were to have a profound effect on the young guitarist and even today, as you will hear in many places on the enclosed CD, Christian's spirit hovers over Kessel's shoulder as he plays. For the purposes of the record date, Barney composed a beautiful tune which he dedicated to Reinhardt, I Remember Django (Barney met the gypsy guitarist in Paris during March 1953, when he was touring Europe as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio.) Stephane had not had an opportunity of seeing the music before the session, yet he turned in a superb performance after the minimum of rehearsal. I Remember Django is one of a number of jazz works inspired by the legendary musician. John Lewis wrote Django while the guitarist Joe Pass composed For Django. Even in the more popular musical field, Reinhardt's memory has been saluted; composer-singer-guitarist, Jake Holmes included Django And Friend on his 'So close, so very far to go' album. Apart from I Remember Django and the superb violin-guitar duet version of I Can't Get Started, it was decided to include a few numbers associated with the pre-war Quintette and on Honeysuckle Rose and I Found A New Baby, both Kessel and Grappelli reach new eights of euphoria as they swing with an intensity seldom associated with stringed instruments. A more contemporary note is struck with the inclusion of Et Maintenant, a splendid song better known perhaps as What Now My Love. Barney Kessel has probably played How High The Moon more frequently than has done Stephane Grappelli, but at the end of this five minute track the two men sound good for another dozen choruses each. There is a chorus of fours followed by a closely interlocking sequence of two-bar breaks. Willow Weep For Me is beautiful; this consists of just one and a half choruses and features Stephane and Barney as a duet. Grappelli is particularly fluent in the final eight bars. Kessel loves the bossa nova form and his own Little Star uses this attractive Brazilian style to perfection. Both men solo superbly over the undulating rhythms. The final Undecided is a marathon example of spontaneous improvisation, the closing choruses showing just how important it is to capture on disc the euphoria inspired by a casual partnership such as this. Alun Morgan London 1970 I Remember Django 4:47 Honeysuckle Rose 6:17 I Can't Get Started 3:02 What a Difference A Day Made 3:04 More Than You Know 4:10 Et Maintenant 3:41 I Found A New Baby 5:57 It's Only A Paper Moon 3:43 How High The M

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