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The Violin in Jazz



Program for Tribute To The Violin In Jazz History

Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, Wed., April 17,2019

FiddleJazz explores the unique and relatively unknown history of the violin in jazz. The concert will feature works by or associated with the most influential jazz violinists in history:

1. - Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy - A tune we found on Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort CD - Originally collected as a solo vocal piece by Folk Song collector and musicologist Alan Lomax.

2. - Swing Along by Will Marion Cook/ Memphis Blues bu W.C. Handy / and Humoresque by Anton Dvorák. A medly - Arrangement by Kit Eakle including all 3 tunes. In honor of 3 EARLY JAZZ violinists - or rather 2 violinists and a violist! - The first violinist, Will Marion Cook, born right after the Civil War in Washington D.C., was perhaps the MOST influential musician and composer in the pre-jazz era. He showed promise early and was sponsored by the famous former slave and civil rights leader, Fredrick Douglass, to study under Joseph Joachim, the bgreatest classical violinist of his generation. He also studied with Anton Dvorak in his 3 year stint at the National Conservatory in New York in 1893-4, and wrote the first all-black review on Broadway in 1897. He wrote many more musical theater show in the early 1900’s, from which ‘Swing Along was taken, and was considered a mentor by Duke Ellington.
- The next was James Reese Europe, perhaps the single most influential musican in America between 1908 and his death in 1919. Both ‘Swing Along’ and W. C. Handy’s ‘Memphis Blues’ were hits for Europe’s bands, most notably the world War ! All Black ‘Hell Fighter’s” regimental band that took the continent of Europe by storm in 1916-17. Eubie Blake called Jim Europe “The Martin Luther King of music.” Find out MUCH more about him HERE:
- Finally the medley includes Anton Dvorák’s Humoresque No. 7, written during his 3 years in New York, and showing evidence of his interest in the ’swing rhythm’ of African American Ragtime popular at the time. Dvorák, a violist and perhaps the most famous European composer of his day, was asked to come to America and teach in order to help Americans develop their own ‘National music,” because he had helped develop a national Czech ‘school of music’ in his own country. He famously, and BOTH controversially and presciently at the time, encouraged American’s to study and use African-American music as a basis for achieving that goal!

3. Doin' Things - Joe Venuti was perhaps the first great jazz violin soloist. He recorded ‘Doin’ Things’ with his partner from his childhood Philadelphia neighborhood, Eddie Lang in 1928. The tune makes reference to Debussy’s song ‘Girl with the Flaxen Hair.’ Venuti i considered one of jazz’ greatest prancksters and story tellers

4. Eddie's Blues - Eddie South was a virtuoso violinist from Chicago who led and early jazz orchestra - ‘The Alabamians,’ and studied in classical music in Hungary, where he feel in love with Gypsy music. He took part in a famous recording session with Gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt along with his violinist, Stephane Grappeili which included this tune he wrote, in 1935 or 6

5. Nuages (or ‘Clouds’ in English) - Perhaps the most famous tune written and recorded by the most famous jazz violinist, Stephane Grappelli and guitarist phenom, Django Reinhardt, with their ‘Quintet of Hot Club of France.’ The tune became a ‘code song’ in wartime France for the Resistence.

6. Mad Monk - Written by the jazz pianist and educator, Dr. Billy Taylor for Eddie South, shows how Eddie South began to move toward the more modern ‘bebop’ sensibility. Taylor was an early admirer of Thelonious Monk, who is referenced in the title.

7. Desert Sands by Stuff Smith, who many consider the best and most influential violinist in jazz. He was also a ‘bigger than life personality.’ And wrote many ‘double entendre’ tunes, and ‘drug’ songs - perhaps inventing that genre with ‘I’se Muggin’ and ‘If You’s A Viper.’ But he also wrote many wonderful serious compositions, including ‘Desert Sands,’ which he recorded with Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson, and Sarah Vaughn’s first hit ‘Time And Again.’ He is often called the ‘Hardest Swingin’ Violinist of all time.’ He is also often considered a major influence on the development of the ‘Be-bop’ movement.

8. C Jam Blues - This Duke Ellington tune is the subject of perhaps the first real ‘music video’ featuring violinist/trumpet double threat, Ray Nance. This tune has been recorded MANY jazz violinists of the period, including Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith, and CLAUDE ‘FIDDLER’ WIlliams, Who I met in 1998 at age 92. He had been a part of the Count Basie band, playing both guitar and violin. But when they went to New York, the prejudice of white jazz fans against the violin, caused promoter John Hammond Sr., to ask count Basie to replace him with Freddie Green.

9. Piccadilly Stomp - Another Stephane Grappelli composition, history making because it was recorded in England during WW II. When the war broke out, Django Reinhardt quickly returned to France, and Stephane stayed in England where he met the young blind pianist George Shearing and recorded this with him, like Eddie South with Dr. Taylor moving toward more modern bebop. 

10. A Woman's Place Is In The Groove - In this Woman’s Herstory month, we must honor the fine jazz violinist, Emma’Ginger’ Smock, was a protegé of Stuff Smith. This tune was written by Smock and recorded by an al woman band led by pianist, Vivien Garry. She reorded throughout her caree which ended after her death at 75 in 1995.

11. Mr. Gentle, Mr. Cool - Another Ellington vehicle for Ray ‘Floor Show’ Nance. And man does it swing!

12. Moose The Mooche - The violin was often seen in the ‘bebop’ years as incapable of playing in the new ‘bebop’ style. Classical violinist exploded the lie to this notion in his ’Stringsville’ LP recorded in 1958, in which he recorded this tune by bebop innovator, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker.

13. Detour Ahead - Detour Ahead is a jazz standard, recorded by Billie Holiday, among others, was written by Chicago bassist and violinist, Johnny Frigo.

14. Stolen Moments - This tune illustrates TWO major movements in jazz: It was originally written by Oliver Nelson as part of his ‘Modal Jazz’ masterpiece, Blues and the Abstract Truth. But as a breakout piece for the Bay Area’s ‘Turtle Island String Quartet,’ it can also be seen as related to ’Third Stream’ music, a term invented by composer, musician, Gunther Schuller, to describe a ‘fusion’ of jazz and classical music.

15. Sunday Walk - Jean-Luc Ponty came to the fore as the finest violinist in jazz in the mid ’60s. This was the title tune from his break album recorded in France before his collaborations with Frank Zappa’s ‘Mother’s Of Invention’, and John McLaughlin’s ‘Mahavishnu Orchestra.’

16. Two Cute - From Stephane Grappelli’s ‘Parisian Thoroughfare’ recording with Mel Lewis’ modern jazz group and written by his pianist Sir Roland Hanna for bassist George Mraz and Stephane Grappelli.

17. Turbulent Plover - Polish violinist, Zbigniew Seifert’s, died at age 32 in 1979. This is perhaps his best known piece. He is a legend in Europe, and also recorded with the west coast ’Third Stream’ group, Oregon. -

18. Free Jazz was strongly represented by jazz violinists with the work of Ornette Coleman, who played left handed, and Leroy Jenkins, among others.

19. Motherland - Written and performed by violinist John Blake Jr. with the McCoy Tyner group, showing the connection of the violin to John Coltrane’s movement towards intensity, African and Free Jazz.

20. En Quittant Kidonk - An early composition by the amazing French violinist, Didier Lockwood, who followed in the footsteps of Jean-luc Ponty, and even Stephane Grappelli, but developed his own free flowing and expressive style. He passed away recently at the young age of 62.

21. Armando's Rhumba - Jazz keyboard great, Chick Corea wrote this classic tune and recorded it on his ‘My Spanish Heart’ Album with Stanley Clarke, bass, and Jean Luc Ponty, violin.,

22. Almost Never Was - Zach Brock is one of the most impressive of the ‘Young Lions’ of thre violin in jazz. This lovely tune was recorded as the title song for his 2012 CD.