The Jazz Violin Connection: Happy Reunion & Oh Lady Be Good

Ken Dryden By

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Violin always seems to be thought of in a classical context first, in spite of the considerable contributions of jazz violinists over the past eight decades. Two recordings, one by a relative newcomer that has just been released, the other a reissue of a 1980 release by a legend, share some common ground.

Stephane Grappelli & Martial Solal
Happy Reunion

It is hard to find a jazz violinist who specializes in swing who hasn't been influenced by Stephane Grappelli to some degree. Grappelli, who initially made his claim to fame with his legendary partner, guitarist Django Reinhardt in the Quintette of the Hot Club of France (QHCOF), parted with him prior to World War II and slowly rebuilt his career during the postwar years, though it wasn't until a revival of interest in the violin master in the late '60s that he found himself in demand for recordings and concerts.

Happy Reunion was actually Grappelli's first and only recording with pianist Martial Solal (aside from a single track in the late '50s where their performances were overdubbed separately), though this meeting draws from a wide range of material outside of the repertoire that he played with Reinhardt. The veteran violinist seems particularly inspired by his fellow countryman in their romps through "Shine and Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare . Solal steals the show a bit in the humorous interpretation of Zez Confrey's novelty piano composition "Stumbling by inserting a number of amusing song quotes. Their impressionistic setting of Reinhardt's timeless ballad "Nuages proves rather refreshing. In addition to two originals by Solal, the duo wraps the date with an unusual free improvisation ("Et si I'on Improvisait? ), proving that Grappelli did not restrict himself exclusively to swing and bop.

Michele Ramo
Oh' Lady Be Good

Michéle Ramo's trio session Oh Lady Be Good is a bit more focused on standards from the heyday of the QHCOF. The violinist recruited veteran guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (who appeared on a number of recordings with Grappelli) and bassist Jerry Bruno for the recording, two men who have worked together frequently since they played alongside one another in Vaughn Monroe's Orchestra. Although covering material associated with Grappelli, Ramo is hardly a clone, his playing concentrating on lyricism and emphasizing the lower range of his instrument, making it sound like he could be playing a viola. Pizzarelli's unaccompanied intro to "Nuages (a piece he has played countless times in concert) is a masterpiece, with the trio resorting to the chugging rhythm made famous by the QHCOF. Ramo also includes songs written later, including Reinhardt's infrequently-performed ballad "Mélodie Au Crépuscule and Johnny Mandel's gorgeous "A Time For Love .

Tracks and Personnel

Happy Reunion

Tracks: Shine; Valsitude; Sing For Your Supper; God Bless The Child; Nuages; Parisian Thoroughfare; Grandeur Et Cadence; Stumbling; Et Si L'on Improvisait?.

Personnel: Stephane Grappelli: violin; Martial Solal: piano.

Oh' Lady Be Good

Tracks: Oh Lady Be Good; Autumn Nocturne; Crazy Rhythm; Everything I Have is Yours; Have You Met Miss Jones; They Can't Take That Away From Me; Nuages; Stardust; Tears; Mélodie Au Crépuscule; A Time for Love.

Personnel: Michéle Ramo: violin; Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar; Jerry Bruno: bass.


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