JJ 11/72: Stephane Grappelli & Gary Burton – Paris Encounter

Fifty years ago Art Napoleon liked how the vibist helped the one-time 'salon fiddler' enter the ether but bridled at Swallow's bass sound. First published Jazz Journal November 1972


By way of introducing Grappelly – or Grappelli, as he spells it these days – there are jazz violinists I’ve en­joyed more: Joe Venuti has all the tech­nique and tone, plus a more fertile im­agination. Stuff Smith simply outswung ’em all. That aside, Stephane has matured steadily from the somewhat hysterical salon fiddler of Django days into a musician of depth and timeless expressive powers. His warm sound and romanticism easily bridge the gen­erations to blend with Burton’s gossamer vibes textures. The results are, at times, ethereal.

Burton is quick to sense the underly­ing melancholy of the violinist’s own Arpege; their performance is one in a thousand, a rapport which inspires both. It bears repeated hearings, never wears.

Similar shimmering wonders on Miles’ Blue and the haunting Rain, by Michael Gibbs. Daphne, a Reinhardt QHCF memento, swings with abandon but never loses the airiness. Burton’s solo does fitting obeisance to Hamp with no sacrifice of identity. It all climaxes in a breathtaking set of stop-time choruses from both soloists.

One very small reservation. Swallow’s electric bass, however superbly played, provides occasional reminder that noth­ing with a plug at one end can repro­duce the resonances peculiar to the ‘natural’ instruments, especially in the rhythm section setting. Not a question either of notes or volume as much as overtones; the partials, to my ear, tend to isolate bass and drums from one an­other rather than knit them together.

But leave that. Play Arpege or Rain and rejoice in music of excellence.

Daphne; Blue In Green; Falling Grace; Here’s That Rainy Day (16½ min) – Coquette; Sweet Rain; The Night Has A Thousand Eyes; Arpege; Eiderdown (18½ min)
Gary Burton (vb); Stephane Grappelli (vln); Steve Swallow (el-bs); Bill Goodwin (dm). Paris, 4 November 1969.
(Atlantic K 40378 £2.29)