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Friday, October 23, 2015
Violinist Eddie South (1904 – 1962) - A Striking Musician, Part One
Georg Lankester writes a survey of the career of violinist
Eddie South. Below follows the first part of the article, the second part will be published later.
Eddie South (1904-1962)
stories on jazz musicians who played with guitarist Django Reinhardt, this time
the focus on the great American
violinist, composer and arranger Eddie
We have to
go back to the USA where Edward was born in Louisiana on 24 November
1904.Growing up he proved to be highly talented, since he was able to play the
violin rather well at an early stage.
others from the South, his parents went to Chicago when he was still young. And
the prodigy (that’s what he was) was soon registered at the Chicago Music
College in order to follow a classical music study. Unfortunately he had to
finish it after one year, because of his skin color. There was no place for a
black person, independent how well you could play. Realizing this Eddie
switched to the jazz scene which was fully under development then.
A New Direction
He meets clarinetist
Darnell Howardwho teaches him the
principles of jazz playing and also Charles
Elgar. With both musicians he starts to perform.
then gets work by joining the well-known orchestra of Erskine Tate, as well as the band of Mac Brady. Somewhat later he becomes the leader of the Syncopators
with trumpet player Jimmy Wade. He
joins this orchestra which plays in the popular Moulin Rouge Café from 1923-1927. It is with this band that he made
his very first recordings for the Paramount label (in 1923).
on his experiences and full of enthusiasm he now forms a small group without
brass players, not very common then, and he calls them The Alabamians. The line-up is violin, piano, clarinet, guitar and
Eddie South and his Alabamians
year he also works with Erskine Tate
and joins the quartet of guitarist Mike
recordings for Victor with his own formation Eddie leaves for Europe where he
will stay from 1928 till 1931. Like many other Americans he makes a tour through
the UK and visits France frequently where Paris is becoming the city of the
European Jazz (due to the Hot Club de France initiatives).
however, always keeps his interest in classical music and during his European
stay he registers at the Conservatory of Paris to practice violin. His teacher
there is Firmin Touche. But he also
frequently visits Russian cabarets where famous Roma musicians play such as Jean Goulesco. Eddie is highly
fascinated by gypsy Music.
autumn of 1929 he travels to Hungary to follow a study at the Music Academy of
Budapest, one of the leading colleges for violin. One of his teachers is Prof. Hubay – a friend of Franz Liszt –
who is also strongly influenced by Hungarian gypsies.
In the Roma
composition Two Guitars which Eddie
recorded in Paris (1929) for HMV one can hear him switching to the gypsy style,
sometimes showing blues influences as well.
Meeting Django in the South of
A young Django Reinhardt
spring of 1931 Eddie can be found in the French ‘Riviera’ where he performs in
Cannes in the popular Bianco’s Night Club. And it is there that he meets Django Reinhardtwho travels around
with his wife Naguine in order to earn some money. This contact was organized
through the intermediary of bass player and band leader Louis Vola.
earlier the guitarist and his brother Joseph had, for the first time in their
life, heard American jazz records after they had met painter Emile Savitry. Both brothers were
excited when they listened to Louis
Armstrong, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang.
quite impressed by Eddie South’s violin playing which included both blues and
gypsy elements. Maybe this experience was the basis for the long association
between guitar and violin shown in the Hot Club Music in the years to come.
they were performing several times together. But also Eddie was surprised to
discover Django’s feeling for improvisation and his fabulous rhythm, so they
enjoyed playing together.
After a few
months Eddie South went back to the
States and restarted his performances in Chicago with his Alabamians. Those
years he also accompanied various American singers. But in 1937 he travelled
again to his beloved France. Paris was full of musical events and had become a
real European center for jazz, stimulated by the World Exhibition which was
visited by 34 millions of people. Eddie was there officially invited by the Hot Club de France and….soon he would
meet Django again.