Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ben Powell - New Street

... including a tribute to STÉPHANE GRAPPELLI  
I'm inspired by the violin sound ( Ben Powell)
Hans Koert

Recently the British born US violin player Ben Powell released his second album entitled New Street, an album which features a special tribute to the man who inspired him as a twelve years young boy: Stéphane Grappelli.
The Ben Powell Quartet features the Japanese piano player Tadataka Unno, which he met at the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program, a protégé of the late Hank Jones; double bass player Aaron Darrell and Devin Drobka on drums. Three tracks are dedicated to the music of Stéphane Grappelli featuring the so-called Stéphane Grappelli Tribute Trio: Ben Powell violin - Gary Burton vibraphone and Julian Lage guitar.
Ben Powell - New Street ( photo courtesy: Ryan MacDonald)

He started to play the violin as a two years old boy, raised in Chellenham in southwest England, in a family in which the violin was very important, as his mother is a violin teacher and his father a classical cellist.  Classical music still plays an important part in Ben Powell's career, but he also played tribute to the gypsy jazz, like celebrating Django's 100th birthday in a trio with Jonathan Joubert and Jack Soref a couple of years ago and he also founded his own Hammond organ trio ......

Trained in classical music by his mother, he became fascinated by the sound of the great French Stéphane Grappelli, who was Django Reinhardts duo-partner in the Hot Club du France recordings for years, and who performed, even in his old age, with dozens of jazz musicians. Stéphane Grappelli pasted away, fifteen years ago, 89 years old, when Ben was still a ten years old schoolboy, unfamilar with his music - it was a teacher at his Junior school who invited him a few years later to listen to Grappelli.  I was captivated, Ben remembers, by Grappelli's freedom and swinging rhythm. He started to learn to play like this old genius on the jazz violin and aurally transcribed what he heard.
  Stéphane Grappelli ( 1908-1997) (photo courtesy: David Landy)

Ben, awarded with The Most Valuable String Player Award, while in Berklee college, was inspired, as he said, by the great classical violinists like David Oistrakh, Michael Rabin and Itzhak Perlman but also by jazz musicians like Joe Lovano, while at Berklee, Stéphane Grappelli, mentioned before and the Roman gypsy jazz violinist Florin Niculescu ......... I'm inspired by the violin sound and the violin isn't musically a traditional jazz instrument so for me it was how do I .... celebrate the violin though this record as an instrument fits into the contemporary jazz ( Ben Powell)

Ben released his first album a few years ago, entitled Light, which he recorded with his quartet and quintet, and contained mostly French tunes and standards from the 1930s up to the 1950s. He loved to record some of his own compositions, which are now available on his latest album, New Street. This album features  four own compositions like the great ballad Judith (with a small reference to his classical roots at the end)  and a standard like What Is This Thing Called Love, which refers to the French gypsy tradition, due to guest player gypsy guitarist Adrien Moignard - it's one of my most favorite tracks on the album.

 Gary Burton (source:

Ben Powell loved to make a tribute to his source of inspiration Stéphane Grappelli. While studying in Berklee, he was introduced to veteran vibe player Gary Burton, who had recorded with Stéphane Grappelli in Paris, November 1969 (Paris Encounter). Gary told him that Stéphane had written a composition, dedicated to him, entitled Gary, which he had recorded in Paris in December 1970 with a quartet featuring Marc Hemmeler, Jack Sewing and Kenny ClarkeGary had framed the composition in his study and never had recorded it himself. As Ben loved to make a tribute to Grappelli, they decided to record it for the very first time together and it is now released, with La Chanson des Rues ( with a vocal by guest vocalist Linda Calise) and the great Piccadilly Stomp, which Stéphane recorded once in London October 1945 with George Shearing at the piano: The Stéphane Grappelli Tribute Trio, features Ben, Gary and Julian Lage ( on guitar).

Ben Powell ( photo courtesy: Ryan MacDonald)

 Enjoy a fragment of a trailer in which Ben introduces his music and his latest album New Street.

This young talented violin player, Ben Powell, fascinated by arranging and composing, one foot firmly planted in the classical music and the other in the jazz scene, inspired by the great legendary Stéphane Grappelli, surprised me with this album. You can order his albums at Amazon or  CD-Baby

Hans Koert
Twitter: #keepitswinging  Facebook group Keep (it) Swinging ( registration needed)

This album surprised me - this young talented violin player, inspired by the sound of veteran violist Stéphane Grappelli, known for his cooperation with Django Reinhardt, has released its second album entitled New Street and features his quartet in some own compositions and standards, which learn that this promising violin player is ready for a great career as a jazz artist. He tributes with his Stephane Grappelli Tribute Trio with veteran vibraphone player Gary Burton the legendary French violinist Stéphane Grapelli who passed away fifteen years ago ........
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1 comment:

  1. Would you please kindly send link ?
    Thank you in advance. Peter