If Star Trek’s Data
were to research violinists for a Jazz concert presentation at the Enterprise, featuring him on violin and Number 1 on trombone, Stéphane Grappelli: A Life in the Jazz Century
would be his main source of information. Grappelli lived and shaped the Jazz century; hence, the need to seriously consider his career, as Music on Earth does in this particularly satisfying documentary.
After the well-designed and aesthetically pleasing menu appears, one can embark this DVD into a Grappelli discovery trek aided by a crisp, relaxed & elegantly toned narrator’s voice. Music, nonetheless, begins the production allowing Grappelli to speak his mind the best way he could: through his playing, of which there is plenty to enjoy here. Thus, the viewer enters a delightful Grappelli viewing experience that extends over two disks with three hours worth of material.
The main disk features an eye-catching two-hour presentation of Grappelli’s life, times and music and the additional disk has bonus materials of equal value and pleasure. On the main feature one gets a superbly produced, written, shot, designed and edited effort that is accurately described by The Penguin Encyclopaedia of Popular Music as “the definitive profile.” Music on Earth placed each portion of the script within its proper situation in life, or setting, in an economical, albeit complete way, even tracing its outlines to further periods in this musician’s life. Thus one is drawn in and out of past, present and future –intermeshed with the then still living violinist– in an extensive collage of eras encompassing his birth at the outset of the past century and his relentless dedication –and good fortune– as he overcame and triumphed over great odds.
The DVD set is artistically, videographically and sonically sophisticated and enjoys many of the expected technical features for this medium, with great attention to aesthetic and historical accuracy. I was unable, however, to view it with the InterActual software in my computer. After switching to the Dell native program of the computer, everything was fine nonetheless. There were no difficulties whatsoever when viewed on the DVD player connected to the TV. I like the option of skipping the fantastic music clips, as that proves invaluable if one wishes a straighter narrative flow. The fact that Grappelli’s ailing voice is supported by access to subtitles of his comments is much welcomed. Grappelli could’ve been further documented into areas such as Western Swing, where groups such as the Hot Club of Cowtown are indebted to him in good measure. This double compact disc is, out-and-out, a most remarkable achievement that could use a more exhaustive discography, bibliography and additional research information.
Stéphane Grappelli: A Life in the Jazz Century is a highly recommended work that will delight followers of Grappelli and can win new converts through a truly professional treatment of an international musician with close to a century of swing, and that isn’t bad at all!
Contact: Music On Earth .