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Svend Asmussen is an 86-year-old Dane who has been sawing on his fiddle since the mid-1930s. Listening to Still Fiddling one would never know Asmussen was 86, but one would surmise he has 60 plus years of experience doing what he does. Asmussen has played and recorded with the cream of the swing era. He has crossed paths with Fats Waller, the Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington; Benny Goodman; Toots Theileman, and even Stephane Grappelli. For having performed for so long, Mr. Asmussen has a modest discography, making this release that much more important and that much more a delight.
The recording is a mixture of standards, originals, and a couple ethnic pieces. Asmussen and his fellow Danes swing with an easy lilt, recalling the pre-war European jazz pioneered by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. The disc opener, "The Best things In Life Are Free" smacks of this free swing. "How Deep Is The Ocean" is bluesy and highlights guitarist Fischer's talents both as accompanist and soloist as well as eliciting the warmest tone of disc from Asmussen. The Jewish fare of My Yiddish Momme" and "Shalom Elechem" is authentic and enjoyable. Asmussen's own hard boppish "Silly Shuffle" and Edvard Grieg's "Jeg Elsker Dig" mine deep the Danish tradition. Fletcher Henderson's "Down South Camp Meeting" is the swingingist piece on the disc, emulating Western Swing. Asmussen's take on "It Had To Be You" is the most effective I have heard in some time.
Track Listing: The Best Things In Life Are Free; How Deep Is The Ocean; My Yiddish Momme; Silly Shuffle; Jeg Elsker Jig; Down South Camp Meeting; My Man Is Gone Now; Hallelujah; Sermon For Stuff; It Had To Be You; Shalom Elechem; Memories Of You. (Total Time: 73:53).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.