1. Singin’ in the Rain
2. Sophisticated Lady
5. Prelude in C minor
6. Things Ain’t What They Used to be
7. Waltz for Sonny
8. Just a Gigolo
9. There Will Never Be Another You
10. Embraceable You
11. Pent-up House
12. June Night
Svend Asmussen – Violin
Georges Arvanitas – Piano
Patrice Caratini – Bass
Charles Saudrais – Drums
Jazz violinist Svend Asmussen accidentally found a tape of a concert that he had performed in Paris on 4 September 1985. He played with a trio he had never
encountered before and, despite the lack of rehearsal, the session proved to be a great success. This recording was released by Storyville Records on 28
February 2015, which just happened to be Svend’s 99th birthday. The recording was made by French radio at a small club, “Le Petit Opportun”,
whose intimate atmosphere helped Asmussen and his unfamiliar accompanists to produce a memorable album.
Asmussen may be less well-known than such violinists as Stéphane Grappelli and Jean-Luc Ponty but he is a highly talented exponent of the fiddle, able to
encompass the styles of both Grappelli and Ponty. His playing gives the impression that he is glad to be alive. As I wrote in a previous review: “There is
an air of mischief in his playing, as if he knows he's using the most sacred instrument in classical music to create impudent jazz”. He plays with a
sharper edge than Grappelli, twisting notes in a style almost equivalent to that of Stuff Smith.
He is well served by the accompanying trio, which is led by the tinkling piano of Georges Arvanitas, a French pianist who deserves to be better known than
he is. He was known as "Georges une prise" (one-take George), indicating his professionalism and ability to fit in with different situations and
record faultlessly at the first attempt. But his flowing style had a pleasurable element which matched Asmussen to perfection. This can be heard in the
opening Singin’ in the Rain, which has a carefree quality reminiscent of Gene Kelly’s famous film performance of the song. Thielemans’ own
composition Waltz for Sonny also has a cheerful, buoyant quality.
As a contrast, Sophisticated Lady is a tender exploration of Billy Strayhorn’s masterpiece. Asmussen seems to be enjoying himself so much that he
can’t resist adding musical comments on Georges’ piano solo, here and elsewhere. Another tender performance is the Prelude in C minor by Chopin,
where Svend approaches a classical style, although he still bends notes expressively. Arvanitas also plays classically, though with a freedom untypical of
Svend brings a wistfulness to Just a Gigolo, that is echoed by Georges’ solo, which is also jaunty. Embraceable You gives Asmussen the
chance to display his versatility in a solo performance which uses a variety of techniques on the violin. Pent-up House gives solo opportunities
to bassist Patrice Caratini and drummer Charles Saudrais.
The remastering has removed extraneous noise and brought the sound up nice and clear. Let’s celebrate Svend’s 100th birthday next February.
Longevity has its place.