Stephane Grappelli Live recorded in 1994 just three years before Grappelli's death (which occurred only weeks before his 90th birthday). This album features the results of one of the most memorable collaborations of the latter part of his career. Supported by guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and bassist Jon Burr, the legendary violinist swings through 20 numbers in a vibrant, joyous way that transcends age.
Grappelli, self-taught as a violinist and pianist, having studied formally only from 1924-28. After playing both piano and violin in movie theaters and dance bands he worked in jazz professionally from around 1927. With Django Reinhardt he was the principal member of the Quintette Du Hot Club De France (formed 1934), the unusual instrumentation of which consisted of a violin, three guitars, and a double bass. Through its many recordings the group became well known in Europe and the USA In 1939 he left the quintet and moved to England, where he was long associated with George Shearing; he worked again with Reinhardt in London (1946) and after returning to France in 1946 in Paris (1947-8) and Rome (1949). During the following years he became progressively less active as a leader, but in the 1960s his career was revived by a growing interest in the jazz violin, and in particular by the success of the album Violin Summit (1966), which he recorded as a member of a group of the same name. He made his first visit to the USA to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival (1969) and in 1973 received an unusual amount of attention for his first album with the classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin; others followed in 1975 and 1977. Around the same time he performed, recorded, and appeared at festivals with such diversed musicians as Joe Venuti (1969), Gary Burton (1969),Earl Hines (1974), Philip Catherine (1979),the mandolin player David Grisman (1979),and Martial Solal (1980).
With Venuti and Eddie South, Grappelli was a pioneer of the jazz violin. Although his playing in the Quintette du Hot Club de Francetended to be overshadowed by that of Reinhardt, who was the greatest innovator, he broadened his style throughout his long career and played with great authority in his later years; still his playing remained rooted in the swing idiom and continued to be characterized by his sweet tone. He was important in furthering the careers of Jean -Luc Ponty and Didier Lockwood, and his recordings with Menuhin brought new recognition to the violin as a jazz instrument. He occasionally played piano in a style indebted to that of Bix Beiderbecke.
While some posthumous releases border on exploitation by compromising recording and performances quality, this one maintains high standards on both counts. A worthy tribute to a jazz legend who for much of his career was known merely as Django's violinist.