Stephane Grappelly and a young Swing fiddle fan,
On the day the top photo was taken I almost got him to go to a
High Country show that I had to play that night.
Paul Masson Winery Saratoga California ( 1977 )
|I heard a few days ago that Stephane Grappelly died and decided to dig out these pictures. Jim Peva suggested that
I put them up on the web site, so here they are.
Everyone who has met Grappelly, I am sure, have very colorful stories to tell. He was a very gracious and 'F'riendly person. Knowing that he was one of the great Swing Jazz players, I made a point of getting to know him. One could learn a lot from Grappelly, but not as much as could be learned from Kenny Baker or Bill Monroe. This is because Grappelly sheltered himself behind a persona. This persona kept you from asking direct questions like "lemme see how you did that again?"
Grappelly had his persona that he never let down.
He was like a never ending entertainer... host...? .. personality!
that's it. Well, he always seemed "ON". At one point I felt
pretty confident with the way things were going and decided to test this
persona. I said something so that I pissed him off then watched
for his response. This image cracked and I could see a real personality
glaring at me. I could see that his guy could be down to earth
I think it was the time I spent with him that made me begin to notice that the phrasing of a music often can be found to follow the player's language structure. When I listen to 70's and later Grappelly recordings I hear French syllable rhythm structures. I have also heard this in Irish music. There had always been something understandable about Venuti's playing. This was not the case, for me, with Grappelly's.
I would bring my fiddle along and play swing tunes with him... well,... he Played them while I struggled with most of them. He said that I could go to any of his shows, record them through the sound system, at any time for free... as long as I didn't bring a woman with me. After that I always brought a woman with me!!!
I bet some of the dawgies have stories they could tell.
I once asked him if he had heard of Kenny Baker...
He said that Grisman had sat him down and played a (Red) Baker record to
him. I don't think he understood Bluegrass. When I would play
a tune around him he would look
Here George Shearing and Stephane Grappelly work out a set list by the
pool, cracking jokes as they go along.
Paul Masson Winery Saratoga California ( 1978 )
I asked him a lot of questions.. one was how did
he get started playing jazz
I asked him if he had studied music in a conservatory,
his answer surprised
Another time I asked him why did he quit Django,
he got really mad and said,
There was an interesting discussion about being Italian. Grappelly at one point was talking about a show he did in Italy with Joe Venuti. He said, "Venuti, Grappelli, an all Italian show in Italy... The crowd went crazy!" I always thought Grappelli was from France.
What is interesting is the spelling of his name, Grappelli or Grappelly. If you look on the old Django records you see Grappelly yet if you look at later solo projects you see Grappelli. I asked once why the two different spellings of his name, to which he said it was Italian and French. That is what he said and I didn't push it.
Jim Moss 12/3/97
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