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Review: Grapelli! Wow!

Uncle_DaveO 05 Aug 10 - 10:20 AM
DebC 05 Aug 10 - 11:22 AM
GUEST,bankley 05 Aug 10 - 11:26 AM
George Papavgeris 05 Aug 10 - 11:47 AM
C-flat 05 Aug 10 - 11:56 AM
GUEST,Neil D 05 Aug 10 - 12:27 PM
Mooh 05 Aug 10 - 12:42 PM
Uncle_DaveO 05 Aug 10 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,rob naylor 05 Aug 10 - 01:51 PM
Leadfingers 05 Aug 10 - 02:23 PM
Mark Ross 05 Aug 10 - 03:34 PM
Seamus Kennedy 06 Aug 10 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 06 Aug 10 - 03:22 PM
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Subject: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 10:20 AM

Warning: I'm about to gush!

Last night my Beautiful Wife and I watched a 2003 movie, called Stephane Grappelli, a Life in the Jazz Century, which we got from NetFlix.

I'd heard for many years about the great jazz violinist, and even had (still have, somewhere) an LP of The Quintet of the Hot Club of France, featuring Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. But I had no idea of the virtuosity and creative drive of this great musician until I watched this wonderful musical biography.

This film covers his whole life, with interviews of Grappelli himself, Nigel Kennedy, Diz Disley, Yehudi Menuhin, and others--and even and more to the point, with generous film clips of many of his performances from the early days (I think in the 1920's) up into the late 90's. There are substantial clips of his performances with Kennedy, Reinhardt, Disley, Joe Vanuti, George Shearing, Menuhin, and others whose names escape me.

The blurb on the inner envelope from NetFlix says: "Legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli tells his own story of a remarkable 77-year career in this glowing, heartfelt documentary. Features clips or tributes from such legends as Django Reinhardt, Yehudi Menuhin, George Shearing, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys. Also included is film footage of Django Reinhardt, including seven never-before-seen minutes of the Hot Club Quintet of France."

Frankly, I was blown away. Even in his eighties, when he had to sit down to perform, there he was, improvising freshly and creatively around the melody of the song in a driving, spectacular, and unbelievable way, and clearly having a ball doing it!

Two hours and eight minutes of absolutely wonderful musical artistry, and an insight into the life of a great and appealing artist!
See it! See it! See it! And of course Hear it! Hear it! Hear it!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: DebC
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 11:22 AM

In 1985, Stephane Grapelli was playing at the Fairmount Hotel in San Francisco and I decided that I was going to go. I went and it was an amazing night. I had decided a few years before that the two musicians I wanted to see live were Grapelli and Ella Fitzgerald. Alas, I never got to see Ella, but in 2007, I did see Marion McPartland (she is 92 now) and that was also a great night.

I think that if there is a musician that you want to see play live before they pass on, I say do it no matter the expense. I will always remember that night hearing Grapelli and have a small regret that I never got to see Ella in her prime.

Debra Cowan


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: GUEST,bankley
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 11:26 AM

a giant and a gentleman


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 11:47 AM

Some years back, Stephane Grapelli appeared in a documentary with Yehudi Menuhin. They were both getting on in years but clearly still masters of their art. They played together a classical piece, and a folk piece, I can't remember what they were, but the folk piece was Hungarian, I think. In the classical piece there was nothing to distinguish the two. But in the folk piece Stephane, with his jazz-won flair for improvisation, free ornamentation and note bending rose clearly heads and shoulders above Yehudi, whose classical training proved too stilted a background to help him interpret folk music. It goes to show - not sure what, but it does...


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: C-flat
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 11:56 AM

I saw him nearly 40 years ago when I was a fresh-faced lad of 15. Allowed to sneak up the back stairs of the club and watch from wings, even my unsophisticated young taste couldn't fail to be totally mesmerised, despite being immersed in the folk-boom genre of the day.
Having opened my ears, I then discovered Django and the whole gypsy-jazz genre and have loved it ever since.
I think you instinctively know when you're in the presence of a genius!


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 12:27 PM

George's story comparing Grapelli to Menuhin reminds me of a story I heard about Django meeting Segovia. Segovia asked Django to play something for him and Django complied. Segovia then asked where he could find the sheet music for the piece and Django told him there was none, he had just made it up on the spot. As the story goes, Segovia wept. I have no way of knowing if it's true, but it makes a cool story just the same.
   I too am a huge fan of Grapelli. My wife bought me a 4 CD set of Django mostly playing with the Hot Club Quintet of Paris, so of course there's plenty of Stephan on there as well. I don't know which of the two I like the best but together they were laying down the most memorable music of the swing era. It's said that touring American musicians who heard them in the 30's were humbled that these French guys had taken the American artform and made it so much their own. I'll have to get this movie if only for the 7 never-before-seen footage of the Hot club. Up till now there have only been a couple snippets of Django playing on film. Thanks for bringing it to our attention Uncle DaveO.


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: Mooh
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 12:42 PM

I bought the 2 Oscar Peterson Stephane Grapelli records when I was a teenager. They shook me deeply. Gone were the liturgical, classical, and rock sensibilities I was used to and in their place was this huge freedom of expression, soulful absorption. Talk about musicians rising above their instruments and style!

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 01:06 PM

There's a great anecdote in the film, about the first Menuhin/Grappelli appearance.

The organizer knew that Menuhin was a great admirer of Grappelli's, and approached him about doing I think a TV appearance together. Menuhin demurred, saying he was in no way prepared for such a collaboration. After some persuasion, he agreed, with trepidation, to try it.

The organizer went to Grappelli: "Oh, no way, I can't do that, not with a great violinist like Menuhin!" After much persuasion he agreed. But he kept getting cold feet.

On the day of the get-together, the organizer rousted Grappelli out of his hotel room with his violin, called a taxi, and dispatched him--with two "minders" to keep him from chickening out--to meet Menuhin.

Two great masters, each cowed by the other.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: GUEST,rob naylor
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 01:51 PM

I had the great fortune to see him live in the early 80s 4 times in and around london. Superb shows every one.


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: Leadfingers
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 02:23 PM

The Grappelli/Menuhin stuff that WAS recorded., I understand that Steph wrote out the 'imorovisations' for Yehudii to play - BOTH masters but 0f different styles !


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Aug 10 - 03:34 PM

I got to see Grappelli with the Disley Trio in the '70's in NYC. 3rd row seats next to Jay Ungar. Both of us were sitting there with our tongues hanging out. I walked out at the end of the evening saying, "I'm going home and break my fiddle over my knee. If I can't play like that, I'm not going to play!"

I did give up the instrument for a while, but I came back to it out of love for the music. I guess I'll have to settle for being an old-timey fiddler. But damn, does his playing touch my soul.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 06 Aug 10 - 09:01 AM

Mark Ross, I got to see them on the same tour in Salem, Mass.

Through a Shure Vocalmaster PA system. And they were brilliant!


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Subject: RE: Review: Grapelli! Wow!
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 06 Aug 10 - 03:22 PM

A few years ago, as part of the Southport Jazz Festival in the UK, Paul Balmer (the producer of the documentary) gave a talk about the making of the film. Bass player Coleridge Goode ( who recorded with Stephane and Django in the 1940s) was also on hand and added some personal memories.
Paul Balmer also played some very passable jazz guitar at a jam session.
I can recommend Paul's biographical book on Stephane.


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