Grappelli (Grappelly), Stephane

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Grappelli (Grappelly), Stephane

Grappelli (Grappelly), Stephane, legendary, long-lived French jazz violinist and pianist, second only to Joe Venuti in importance in the history of jazz violin;b. Paris, Jan. 26, 1908; d. there, Nov. 30, 1997. Until the 1970s Grappelly was the preferred spelling. He began playing classical violin at 12, and piano in his early teens (he made several piano recordings in the 1930s). He turned to jazz violin in the late 1920s, working in cinemas and cafes, then with Gregor and His Gregoriens and Glickman’s Orch. He soon led his own band and developed a musical partnership with Django Reinhardt, resulting in the formation of the enormously popular Quintet of the Hot Club of France (1934-39). He visited London with the QHCF (1938), then settled in Britain (1939) and worked with Arthur Young (1939-0) before becoming featured soloist with Barney Gilbraith at Lansdowne House (1940). After overcoming serious illness, he worked regularly at Hatchett’s, London (1942) and toured variety halls with his Swingtette. He performed and recorded with Reinhardt again (1946-47), but thereafter they went their separate ways except for recording dates.

Grappelli became very active on the European touring circuit, with engagements in France (1947-48, included Bert Firman); London (Milroy Club, 1949); Rome (1951); and after recovery from an illness, Britain (1953). After another illness, he led at the Bagatelle Club, London (1954). He played further seasons in Rome, St. Tropez, Paris, and London (1955-58), before taking up a residency at Club St. Germain, Paris (1958). He made his U.S. debut at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival. He was an active festival participant, and played the world’s leading concert halls from the 1970s until his death. His extensive recording schedule consolidated his position as an international musical celebrity. He appeared regularly in concert with Yehudi Menuhin (from 1973), and (Nigel) Kennedy. He made his Carnegie Hall N.Y. debut (1974) and returned there for a special 80th-birthday concert.


Unique Piano Session (1955); Violins No End (1957); Improvisations (1958); Feeling + Finesse = Jazz (1962); Meets Barney Kessel (1969); Venupelli Blues (with J. Venuti; 1969); Paris Encounter (with G. Burton; 1968); Afternoon in Paris (1971); Jalousie: Music of the 30s (with Y. Menuhin; 1972); S. G./Bill Coleman (1973); Meets Earl Hines (1974); Steff and Slam (with Slam Stewart; 1975); Reunion, with George Shearing (1976); And Hank Jones (1979); And David Grisman (1979); Live at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen (1979); At the Winery (1980); Happy Reunion, with Martial Solal (1980); Live in San Francisco (1982); One on One, with McCoy Tyner (1990); Live (1992); So Easy to Remember (1992); And Michel Legrand (1992); 85 & Still Swinging… (1993); It’s Only a Paper Moon (1994).


Mon Violon pour Tout Bagage (autobiography).


M. Glaser, S. G. Jazz Violin (N.Y, 1981); R. Horricks, S. G., or the Violin with Wings: A Profile (N.Y, 1983); G. Smith, S.G.: A Biography (London, 1987).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/John Chilton, Who’s Who of British Jazz