Grappelli in 1976, by Allan Warren
|Birth name||Stéfano Grappelli|
|Born||26 January 1908|
|Died||1 December 1997 (aged 89)|
|Genres||Swing, continental jazz, Gypsy jazz|
|Instruments||Violin, piano, saxophone, accordion|
|Associated acts||Django Reinhardt, Quintette du Hot Club de France, Yehudi Menuhin, Oscar Peterson, David Grisman|
Stéphane Grappelli (French pronunciation: [stefan ɡʁapɛli]; 26 January 1908 – 1 December 1997) was a French jazz violinist who founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France with guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1934. It was one of the first all-string jazz bands. He has been called "the grandfather of jazz violinists" and continued playing concerts around the world well into his 80s.
For the first three decades of his career, he was billed using a gallicised spelling of his last name, Grappelly, reverting to Grappelli in 1969. The latter, Italian spelling, is now used almost universally when referring to the violinist, including reissues of his early work.
Grappelli was born at Hôpital Lariboisière in Paris, France, and christened with the name Stéfano. His father, an Italian Marchese, Ernesto Grappelli, was born in Alatri, Lazio, and his French mother, Anna Emilie Hanoque, was from St-Omer. His father was a scholar who taught Italian, sold translations, and wrote articles for local journals. His mother died when he was five, leaving his father to care for him. Though living in France when World War I began, his father was still an Italian citizen and was drafted to fight for Italy in 1914.
Having written about American dancer Isadora Duncan, who was living in Paris, Ernesto Grappelli appealed to her to care for his son. He was enrolled in Duncan's dance school at age six, and he learned to love French Impressionist music. With the war encroaching, Duncan as an American citizen fled the country; she turned over her château to be used as a military hospital. Ernesto Grappelli entrusted his son to a Catholic orphanage. Grappelli said of this time:
I look back at it as an abominable memory... The Place was supposed to be under the eye of the government, but the government looked elsewhere. We slept on the floor, and often were without food. There were many times when I had to fight for a crust of bread
Grappelli compared his early life to a Dickens novel and said that he once tried to eat flies to ease his hunger. He stayed at the orphanage until his father returned from the war in 1918, settling them in an apartment in Barbès. Having been sickened by his experiences with the Italian military, his father took him to city hall, pulled two witnesses off the street, and had his son nationalized as a Frenchman on 28 July 1919. His first name "Stéfano" was Gallicized to "Stéphane". He began playing the violin at the age of 12 on a three-quarter-sized violin that his father bought after pawning a suit. Although Stéphane was sent to violin lessons, he preferred learning on his own.
My first lessons were in the streets, watching how other violinists played...The first violinist that I saw play was at the Barbès métro station, sheltered under the overhead metro tracks. When I asked how one should play, he exploded in laughter. I left, completely humiliated with my violin under my arm.
After a brief period of independent learning, he was enrolled at the Conservatoire de Paris on December 31, 1920, which his father hoped would give him a chance to learn music theory, ear-training, and solfeggio. In 1923 Grappelli graduated with a second-tier medal. His father married Anna Fuchs and moved to Strasbourg. Grappelli remained in Paris because he disliked Fuchs.
At the age of 15, Grappelli began busking full-time to support himself. His playing caught the attention of an elderly violinist who invited him to accompany silent films in the pit orchestra at the Théâtre Gaumont. He played there for six hours daily over a two-year period. During orchestra breaks, he visited Le Boudon, a brasserie, where he would listen to songs from an American proto-jukebox. Here he was introduced to jazz. He was playing in the orchestra at the Ambassador in 1928 when Paul Whiteman was performing with Joe Venuti. Jazz violinists were rare, and though Venuti played mainly commercial jazz themes and seldom improvised, Grappelli was struck by his bowing when he played "Dinah". He began developing a jazz-influenced style.
Grappelli lived with Michel Warlop, a classically trained violinist. Warlop admired Grappelli's jazzy playing, and Grappelli envied Warlop's income. After experimenting with piano, Grappelli stopped playing violin, choosing simplicity, new sound, and paid performances over familiarity. He began playing piano in a big band led by a musician called Grégor. After a night of drinking in 1929, Grégor learned that Grappelli played violin. Grégor borrowed a violin and asked Grappelli to improvise over "Dinah". Delighted, Grégor urged Grappelli to return to violin.
In 1930, Grégor ran into financial trouble. He was involved in an automobile accident that resulted in deaths, fleeing to South America to avoid arrest. Grégor's band reunited as jazz ensemble under the leadership of pianist Alain Romans and saxophonist André Ekyan. While playing with this band, Grappelli met gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1931. Looking for a violinist interested in jazz, he invited Grappelli to play with him at his caravan. Although the two played for hours that afternoon, their commitments to their respective bands prevented them from pursuing a career together.
In 1934 they met again at Claridge's in London, England, and they began a musical partnership. Pierre Nourry, the secretary of the Hot Club de France, invited Reinhardt and Grappelli to form the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Louis Vola on bass and Joseph Reinhardt and Roger Chaput on guitar.
In 1937, American jazz singer Adelaide Hall and her husband Bert Hicks opened the nightclub La Grosse Pomme in Montmartre. She entertained nightly and hired the Quintette as one of the house bands. Also in the neighborhood was the artistic salon of R-26, at which Grappelli and Reinhardt performed regularly.
For the first three decades of his musical career, Grappelli was billed "Stéphane Grappelly", a Gallicized form of his name. He took back the Italian spelling of his last name, he said, to keep people from pronouncing his surname "Grappell-eye".
The Quintette du Hot Club de France disbanded in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II; Grappelli was in London and stayed there during the war. In 1940, jazz pianist George Shearing made his debut as a sideman in Grappelli's band.
When the war was over, Reinhardt came to England for a reunion with Grappelli and, with the "English Quintette", recorded some titles in London in January–February 1946 for EMI and Decca, using a rhythm section comprising English guitarists Jack Llewelyn and Alan Hodgkiss together with the ex-Caribbean bassist Coleridge Goode. Grapelli then remained in England while Reinhardt returned to Paris and then undertook an only moderately successful visit to America, where he performed in a new style using an amplified archtop guitar with Duke Ellington's orchestra. On his return he and Grappelli reunited occasionally for concerts on occasions when the latter was visiting Paris, however the pre-war Quintette was never re-formed; the pair also undertook brief tour of Italy with an Italian rhythm section of piano, bass and drums; the tour was documented by around 50 tracks recorded for an Italian radio station, about half of which can be heard on the album Djangology (released in 2005). This was to be the last set of recordings featuring the pair, with Reinhardt moving into a more bebop/modern jazz idiom and playing with younger French musicians prior to his early death in 1953, aged only 43.
Through the 1950s Grappelli made occasional visits to the recording studio but the opportunities for a swing violinist of his generation were becoming limited, and despite attempts to modernise his style he was never particularly interested in the bebop style which was then fashionable in the jazz world. He made a brief filmed appearance in Paul Paviot's 1957 film "Django Reinhardt" in which he plays "Minor Swing" alongside Joseph Reinhardt, Henri Crolla and others. In the 1960s he made regular appearances on the BBC Light Programme, French Public Radio and the pirate station Radio Luxembourg, and in 1967 returned to Paris to take up a regular engagement providing music for diners at the "Le Toit de Paris" restaurant in the Paris Hilton Hotel, an position he kept up until 1972 since it provided regular work plus accommodation at the Hotel. He played in a standard, "lounge jazz" format accompanied by a pianist and drummer, making a living but by now very little impact on the jazz world.
In 1971, British chat-show host Michael Parkinson, a long time jazz fan, had the idea of including Grappelli on his show playing a duet with the classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Although Menuhin had no jazz training and a distinctly classical "feel" to his playing, the result went down very well with the British public and a series of 3 collaboration albums resulted over the period 1972-1976, with Menuhin playing parts written out by Grappelli and the latter improvising in the true jazz manner. In the TV show Menuhin played his prized Stradivari dating from 1714, while Grappelli revealed his instrument was made by Goffredo Cappa in 1695.
In 1973, British guitarist Diz Disley had the idea of prizing Grappelli away from his "lounge jazz" format with piano players to play once again with the backing of acoustic guitars and double bass, re-creating a version of the "Hot Club" sound but now with Grappelli as sole leader. Grappelli's reservations about returning to this format were dissipated following a rapturous reception for the "new" (old) format group at that year's Cambridge Folk Festival, after which he favoured the guitar-based trio (with double bass) for a serious of increasingly successful concert tours around the globe which occupied virtually the remainder of his life; away from the concert circuit, however, he also favoured numerous other instrumental combinations on record. Other guitarists in the British "Diz Disley Trio" providing his instrumental backing over the years included Denny Wright, Ike Isaacs, the Irish guitarist Louis Stewart, John Etheridge and Martin Taylor, while double bass was often provided by Dutchman Jack Sewing; in his later years he also used a Parisian trio which included guitarist Marc Fosset and bassist Patrice Carratini.
In April 1973 Grappelli performed with great success during a week at "Jazz Power" in Milan, accompanied by such notable Italian jazz musicians as guitarist Franco Cerri, bassist/arranger Pino Presti and drummer Tullio De Piscopo.
Grappelli played on hundreds of recordings, including sessions with Duke Ellington, jazz pianists Oscar Peterson, Michel Petrucciani and Claude Bolling, jazz violinists Svend Asmussen, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Stuff Smith, Indian classical violinist L. Subramaniam, vibraphonist Gary Burton, pop singer Paul Simon, mandolin player David Grisman, classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin, orchestral conductor André Previn, guitar player Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar player Joe Pass, cello player Yo Yo Ma, harmonica and jazz guitar player Toots Thielemans, jazz guitarist Henri Crolla, bassist Jon Burr and fiddler Mark O'Connor.
Grappelli recorded a solo for the title track of Pink Floyd's 1975 album Wish You Were Here. This was made almost inaudible in the mix, and so the violinist was not credited, according to Roger Waters, as it would be "a bit of an insult". A remastered version with Grappelli's contribution fully audible can be found on the 2011 editions of Wish You Were Here.
Grappelli made a cameo appearance in the 1978 film King of the Gypsies with mandolinist David Grisman. Three years later they performed in concert. In the 1980s he gave several concerts with British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. In 1997, Grappelli received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is an inductee of the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.
Personal life and legacy
In May 1935 Grappelli had a brief affair with Sylvia Caro that resulted in a daughter named Evelyne. Sylvia remained in Paris with her daughter for the duration of World War II. Father and daughter were reunited in 1946 when Evelyne travelled to London from France to stay with Grappelli for about a year. From 1952 to 1980 he shared much of his life with a female friend, Jean Barclay, for whom he felt a deep brotherly affection. However Grappelli never married and it is widely accepted that he was gay; in 1981 he met Joseph Oldenhove, who would be his companion until his death.
He is the subject of the documentary Stephane Grappelli - A Life in the Jazz Century.
- Djangology: Django Reinhardt, the Gypsy Genius (1936 to 1940, released in 2005, Bluebird)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt the Gold Edition (1934 to 1937, copyright 1998)
- Unique Piano Session Paris 1955 (1955, Jazz Anthology)
- Improvisations (Paris, 1956)
- Afternoon in Paris (1971, MPS)
- Manoir de Mes Reves (1972, Musidisc)
- Homage to Django (1972, released 1976, Classic Jazz)
- Stéphane Grappelli (1973, Pye)
- Black Lion at Montreux with the Black Lion All-stars (Black Lion, Recorded July 4, 1973)
- Just One of Those Things! (1973, Black Lion) Recorded at the 1973 Montreaux Jazz Festival
- I Got Rhythm! (1974, Black Lion) with The Hot Club of London (Diz Disley/Denny Wright/Len Skeat), recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 5 November 1973
- The Talk of the Town (1975, Black Lion) with Alan Clare
- Satin Doll (1975, Vanguard)
- Parisian Thoroughfare with Roland Hanna/Mel Lewis/George Mraz (1975, Arista/Freedom)
- The Rock Peter and the Wolf (1976, RSO)
- +Cordes (1977, Musidisc)
- Live at Carnegie Hall (1978, Signature)
- Uptown Dance (1978, Columbia)
- Young Django (1979, MPS)
- Stéphane Grappelli '80 (1980, Happy Bird)
- Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark (Pablo Live, 1980)
- Live at Carnegie Hall (1983, Dr Jazz) with Diz Disley/John Etheridge/Brian Torff
- Vintage 1981 (1981, Concord)
- Just One of Those Things (1984, EMI)
- Grappelli Plays George Gershwin (1984, Musidisc)
- Fascinating Rhythm (1986, Jazz Life)
- Live in San Francisco (1986, Blackhawk)
- Classic Sessions: Stéphane Grappelli with Phil Woods and Louie Bellson (1987, RTV)
- Stéphane Grappelli Plays Jerome Kern (1987, GRP)
- The Intimate Grappelli (1988, Jazz Life)
- Steph 'n' Us (1988, Cherry Pie) with Don Burrows & George Golla
- How Can You Miss with Louie Bellson and Phil Woods (1989, Rushmore)
- Jazz 'Round Midnight (1989, Verve)
- My Other Love (1991, Colombia)
- Stéphane Grappelli in Tokyo (1991, A&M)
- Bach to the Beatles (1991, Academy Sound)
- Live 1992 (1992, Verve)
- 85 and Still Swinging (1993, Angel)
- Live at the Blue Note (1996, Telarc)
- Crazy Rhythm (1996/2000, Pulse)
- Parisian Thoroughfare (1997, Laserlight)
- Stéphane Grappelli/Django Reinhardt/Bill Coleman: Bill Coleman with Django and Stéphane Grappelli 1936 to 1938 (released 1985, DRG)
- Stéphane Grappelli/Stuff Smith/Svend Asmussen/Jean-Luc Ponty: Violin Summit (1967, Polygram)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Earl Hines: Stéphane Grappelli meets Earl Hines
- Stéphane Grappelli and Hubert Clavecin: Dansez Sur Vos Souvenirs (Musidisc)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Barney Kessel: Remember Django (1969, Black Lion)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Gary Burton: Paris Encounter (1969, Atlantic)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Barney Kessel: Limehouse Blues (1972, Black Lion)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Gary Burton: Paris Encounter (1972, Atlantic)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Paul Simon: Hobo's Blues (1972, Columbia)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin: Menuhin and Grappelli Play Berlin, Kern, Porter and Rodgers & Hart (1973 to 1985, EMI)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Oscar Peterson (1973, Musicdisc)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Baden Powell: La Grande Reunion (1974, Accord)
- Stéphane Grappelli and The Diz Disley Trio: Violinspiration (1975, MPS)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin: Jalousie (1975, EMI)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Yehudi Menuhin: Fascinating Rhythm (Music of the 30's) (1975, EMI)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Bill Coleman: Stéphane Grappelli/Bill Coleman (1976, Classic Jazz [CJ 24], recorded in 1973)
- Stéphane Grappelli and The George Shearing Trio: The Reunion (1977, MPS)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Joe Venuti: Venupelli Blues (1979, Affinity)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Bucky Pizzarelli: Duet (1979, Ahead)
- Stéphane Grappelli and David Grisman: Live at Berklee (recorded 20 September 1979, Boston, Massachusetts)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Martial Solal: Happy Reunion (1980, MPO)
- Stéphane Grappelli and David Grisman: Live (1981, Warner Brothers)
- Oscar Peterson/Stéphane Grappelli/Joe Pass/Mickey Roker/Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen: Skol (1982, recorded in Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark, 6 July 1979)
- Stéphane Grappelli with Marc Fosset: Stephanova (Concord Jazz, 1983)
- Stéphane Grappelli with L. Subramaniam: Conversations (1984)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Toots Thielemans: Bringing it Together (1984, Cymekob)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Martin Taylor: We've Got the World on a String (1984, EMI)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Stuff Smith: Violins No End (1984, Pablo)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Helen Merrill (1986, Music Makers)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Vassar Clements: Together at Last (1987, Flying Fish)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Jean-Luc Ponty: Violin Summit (1989, Jazz Life)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Jean-Luc Ponty: Compact Jazz (1988, MPS)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Martial Solal: Olympia 1988 (1988, Atlantic)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Joe Venuti: Best of Jazz Violins (1989, LRC)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Yo Yo Ma: Anything Goes: Stéphane Grappelli & Yo-Yo Ma Play (Mostly) Cole Porter (1989)
- Stéphane Grappelli and McCoy Tyner: One on One (1990, Milestone)
- Stéphane Grappelli and L. Subramaniam: Conversations (1984, Milestone)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Claude Bolling: First Class (1992, Milan)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Michel Legrand: Legrand Grappelli (1992, Verve)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Martin Taylor: Réunion (1993, Linn)
- Capelino featuring Stéphane Grappelli: La Copine (1993, Munich Records)
- The Rosenberg Trio featuring Stéphane Grappelli, Jan Akkerman & Frits Landesbergen: Caravan (1994, Polydor BV)
- Stéphane Grappelli and Michel Petrucciani: Flamingo (Dreyfus 1996)
- Stéphane Grappelli/Carl Hession/Frankie Gavin/Marc Fosset: Frankie Gavin 2003–2004 Collection/The Grappelli Era (2003)
- Reuters obituary
- Dregni 2004, p. 70.
- Smith, Geoffrey (2 December 1997). "Obituary: Stephane Grappelli". The Independent. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- Dregni 2004, p. 71.
- Dregni 2004, p. 72.
- Dregni 2004, p. 73.
- Dregni 2004, p. 74.
- Dregni, Michael (2006). Django Reinhardt and the Illustrated History of Gypsy Jazz. Speck Press. pp. 45–59. ISBN 978-1-933108-10-0.
- "Performer Adelaide Hall ...", Midnite in Paris, 7 September 2011. Tumblr.com. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
- Grappelli, Stéphane (1992). Mon Violon Pour Tout Bagage. Éditions Calmann-Lévy, Paris.[page needed]
- Balmer, chapters 13, 14, 15.
- "Stéphane Grappelli – A tribute introduced by Yehudi Menuhin", Daily Motion, 31 December 1997.
- Vittorio Franchini, Stéphane Grappelli, a Milano mostro sacro del Jazz, published by daily newspaper Corriere della Sera April 27 1973
- Balmer, Paul (2003). Stéphane Grappelli: With and Without Django. Sanctuary. pp. 96, 142. ISBN 9781860744532.
- Balmer, Paul (2003). Stéphane Grappelli: A Life in Jazz. Bobcat Books. pp. 161––163. ISBN 9781847725769.
- Grappelli, Stéphane; Oldenhove, Joseph; Bramy, Jean-Marc (1994). Stéphane Grappelli - Mon violon pour tout bagage. Calmann-Levy.
- Ake, David (2004). "Jazz". In Kimmel, Michael; Aronson, Amy (eds.). Men and Masculinities. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 438.
- Mnookin, Seth (21 December 1999). "Sharps & Flats". Salon.
- Dregni 2004, p. 121
- Coryell, Larry (2007). Improvising: My Life in Music. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-8793-0826-1.
- Brace, Eric (5 December 1997). "A Memorable Evening With the Great Grappelli". Washington Post.
- Gavin, James (1 December 2001). "Homophobia in Jazz - JazzTimes". JazzTimes. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
- Velez, Andrew (13 February 2001). "Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of America's Music". The Advocate. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
- "Obituary: Stephane Grappelli". The Telegraph, 2 Dec 1997.
- Balmer, p. 274.
- Stephane Grappelli - A Life in the Jazz Century at Music On Earth productions.
- Dregni, Michael (2004). Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516752-X.
- Grappelli, Stéphane; Jean-Marc Bramy (2002). With Only My Violin: The Memoirs of Stéphane Grappelli. New York: Welcome Rain Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56649-151-8.
- Smith, Geoffrey (1987). Stéphane Grappelli: A Biography. London: M. Joseph. ISBN 978-1-85145-012-1.