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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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NDR 60 Years Jazz Edition

No. 03 - Stéphane Grappelli Ensemble - 17 May 1957, Hamburg, NDR Studio

MOOSICUS RECORDS

 

 

Autumn in New York [4:35]

Jeepers Creepers [2:32]

These Foolish Things [4:31]

She’s Funny That Way [3:39]

Nuages/Swing 39 [3:50]

It Might As Well Be Spring [5:16]

Hambourg Souvenir [3:54]

Vours Qui Passez Sans Me Voir [3:00]

Lady Be Good [3:12]

A Flower Is A Love-Some Thing [4:12]

I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me [3:06]

Manoir De Mes Reves [3:29]

How About You? [3:13]

The Lady Is A Tramp [3:24]

St. Louis Blues [5:15]

A Girl In Calico [3:02]

I’ll Remember April [3:02]

Blue Moon [3:06]

How High The Moon [4:00]

Pennies From Heaven [2:49]

 

Stéphane Grappelli (violin)

Maurice Vander (piano)

Hans Last (bass)

Rolf Ahrens (drums)

rec. 17 May 1957, NDR Studio 1, Hamburg, Germany [73:07]

 

The German independent music label Moosicus has recently begun releasing on vinyl and CD studio recordings and concerts stored in the vaults of the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR, North German Broadcasting) as part of a new “NDR 60 Years Jazz Edition” series. Most of this material has never been released before and will certainly be of interest to jazz fans. So far, four albums have been released: Dizzy Gillespie and Hans Koller (No. 01), the Dave Brubeck Quartet (No. 02), the Modern Jazz Quartet (No. 4), and Stéphane Grappelli (No. 3), the last being the focus of this review.

Stéphane Grappelli, the French “grandfather of jazz violinists”, is best known for his musical partnership with guitarist Django Reinhardt, with whom he formed the legendary Quintette du Hot Club de France from 1934-39. After Reinhardt passed away in 1953, a loss which affected the violinist deeply, Grappelli continued to mold and perfect his art form, and at the time of this studio recording in Hamburg in 1957, Grappelli was said to have “for the first time the complete repertoire of forms of expression on the violin which made him the style-forming jazz musician who earned the admiration even of instrumentalists in other genres such as the great classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin” (quoted from Martin Laurentius’ liner notes). Grappelli is indeed in excellent form on this recording. The album contains 20 tracks, ranging from mid- and up-tempo jazz standards (e.g.Jeepers Creepers, Lady Be Good, I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me) and Reinhardt originals ( Nuages/Swing 39, Manoir de Mes Reves) to romantic ballads (e.g. Autumn in New York, These Foolish Things), giving us ample opportunity to witness Grappelli’s incredible versatility as a jazz musician. His formidable technique is clear evidence of his formal classical training, but where most other classically-trained musicians often fail, Grappelli clearly succeeds: no matter how quick or slow the tempo, he can really swing with the best of ‘em. Should you have any doubts, just listen to him tear through what might be one of the fastest renditions I’ve heard of I’ll Remember April. On tracks like How About You? and A Girl in Calico, Grappelli shows that he can also lie back and swing in a more relaxed style without any sacrifice of momentum or rhythmic or melodic interest. Ballads like Autumn In New York and A Flower Is A Love-Some Thing benefit from his rich tone and ability to playfully manipulate and ornament melodies. While it is clear that the spotlight here is on Grappelli, the sidemen do get their chance to stretch out a little. In addition to his tight and colorful ‘comping, French pianist Maurice Vander conjures up some nice solos on most of the tunes, using bebop-style, eighth note lines on quicker numbers likeJeepers Creepers, Hambourg Souvenir, and The Lady Is A Tramp and dialing back on ballads such as Autumn In New York andIt Might As Well Be Spring in which he also generates inventive, melodic solos. German bassist Hans “James” Last gets a rare chance to solo on Lady Be Good but can be commended for providing the combo with a solid harmonic foundation and keeping good time with fellow German drummer Rolf Ahrens.

In spite of the age of the recording, the sound quality of this CD is excellent. As might be expected of a recording dating from 1957, the tracks are in mono, and aside from just a hint of analog tape hiss, the sound is pristine and pleasantly warm.

This album is an exclusive, well-recorded document of Stéphane Grappelli’s consummate musicianship, which clearly continued to flourish even in his post-Reinhardt era. If you like jazz or just good music in general, you really owe it to yourself to check out this session.

Albert Lam



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