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He has used his full lifetime ...
FrizzText | Wuppertal | 06/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1908-1997, at the age of 89 Stéphane Grappelli died - and he has used his full lifetime like nearly no other musician. But I've never seen such an intense DVD-space using as well. It's unbelievable, how many movie-sources the producing team Paul Balmer and Judy Caine found out: The interview with Grappelli (at his last home at 87th Rue de Dunkerque) lasting two hours (not included 1 hour bonus material) is accomponied by authentic movie-sequences. They are bringing us back to the old pre-war time, when Stephane, aged 11, started his career (1920) as a street-musician (together whith an italian-born guitarist) strolling around in his Montmartre-quartier (self-taught, never using notes, only trusting his ears and his talent of staying relaxed and spontaneous). 1923, aged 15, he recieved a job as a silent movie (Buster Keaton) musician. American jazz, arriving at Paris after WWI, inspired Stephane: via radio he learned something about the violin-guitar-duo Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang. In a caravan-camp outside of Paris-city he met the gipsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and tried to copy the Venuti/Lang-duo-style - and they made it much better. 1933 they played every afternoon for a tea-time-entertainment in the Claridge-hotel. Not soon after, a label booked "The Quintett du Hot Club de France". 1937 the british theater-manager Lew Grade caught them - and worked with great success about ten years together with the double-genius in England (interrupted by some years, because Django Reinhardt 1939 prefered (WWII) to go home - taking for his own to the continent a brand new, not yet paid limousine of Lew Grade). 1946 has been the year of reunion: Django visited Grappelli in London, they played for a welcome a jazzy version of the french national hymn - and they again became reconciled with each other - soon they left by plane for an US-tour. While Django established in the states, Grappelli went back to England, because melody-prefering violines had no chance in the jazz-scene in those 50/60-decade in the USA. In U.K. Stephane joined many years the blind piano-player George Shearing. The sudden death of Django Reinhardt, 1953, of course all made sad. But Grappelli added another package of 40-years-musician's-life: He played together with the classical violonists Yehudi Menuhin or Nigel Kennedy, he joined Duke Ellington or Miles Davis, worked with the english guitarists Diz Disley or Martin Taylor, toured through Australia or New Zealand, entered the Carnegie Hall (New York) or the Royal Albert Hall (London), made shake-hands with the Queen Mom, worked with high concentration to create a movie sound-track (Milou en Mai von Louis Malle). 1908-1997 - a long distance till Stéphane peaceful decided "to regret to my friends. C'est la Vie ..."
FrizzText | 11/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a nearly flawless production. The main feature is a 2-hour documentary on Stephane Grappelli, starting with his birth and including film clips (with sound) from one of his pre-Django gigs. A very interesting film clip of Stephane & Django is also included, as are performances with Yehudi Menuhin, George Shearing, Diz Disley & Martin Taylor. The documentary is held together by interview segments with Grappelli.The second DVD in the set includes complete versions of some of the performance clips excerpted in the documentary & more commentary from Nigel Kennedy, Menuhin, Martin Taylor and others. There are short pieces on Grappelli's technique and his piano playing (I wish the latter had been expanded). An audio segment includes several complete tracks also excerpted in the documentary. A segment on the making of the documentary shows both what a labor of love it was & some of the digital technology used in its production.If you love jazz, get this DVD - you won't be disappointed."
books4280 | Edmonton, Alberta Canada | 10/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is likely the best music DVD I've seen yet. Paul Balmer and Judy Caine should be congratulated mightily for getting down Stephane Grappelli's story while he was still alive. Grappelli was a jazz giant, not only with the Django Reinhardt and the Quintet of The Hot Club of France, but as a solo jazz violin player and tells his story mostly in his own words. The DVD contains the only live clips of Django Reinhardt this reviewer has seen and they look great. Reinhardt has been the biggest influence on lead guitarists in the last century and every lead player today has been influenced by his style, whether they know it or not.Balmer tried to get this documentary financed by both British and American television, to no avail, which just proves the short-sightedness of mainstream television. To his credit, instead of giving up, Balmer started his own company, Music On Earth, and made first a radio documentary and then this great DVD.It's jam packed with great footage (like color footage of Grappelli and Teddy Wilson playing on British television and other rare footage of Art Tatum) and runs 2 hours and 8 minutes, which is far better than anything we've seen on TV lately, with the exception of Ken Burn's massive "Jazz" project. In addition they've packed the DVD with extra commentaries, more
footage, complete clips, a CD jukebox, rare photos, a timeline,and more. A must-have for any fan of jazz."
Nikica Gilic | Zagreb, Croatia | 12/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This amazing double DVD pack uses incredible variety of sources to document the life and art of one of true European jazz giants; picturing him as a young member of Gregor and ses Gregorians (basically a vaudville-musical act with mere elements of jazz), founding member of the great Quintette du Hot Club de France (with rare and amazing footage of Django's playing - his torched left fist is not a myth - how could he play so divinely with such an impediment?)... Then you see him heading a group with young British talent George Shearing on piano, playing with Diz Disley and other younger swing enthusiasts, as well as classical mega-star Yehudi Menuhin and a strange cross-over artist Nigel Kennedy...
As a film, this great two hours documentary is a tad too long and insufficiently imaginative in depicting the life of an extraordinary artist, but fans of jazz (particularly classical jazz) will be flabergasted by the material in the film and on bonus DVD... And there are high points in film as well - description of Menuhin and Grappelli's initial misgivings before the collaboration, a collegue's description of Diz Disley as being "mercurial", story of Stephane's encounter with Miles Davis, surprising statement that he never received the record he made with Ellington and Sven Assmusen ("Ellington Violin Summit"), etc...
Naturally, cross-over efforts (f. i. with Menuhin) are of lesser interest to a strict jazz fan, but there is more than enough magnificent jazz-fiddling on this double DVD to satisfy any jazz purist... It is quite amazing to listen how well he played for such a long career span and, between his charming comments and bonus tracks on second DVD, you even get some of Grapelly's personality (without much dwelling on details of his personal life)...