Saturday, October 31, 2015

Violinist Eddie South (1904 – 1962) - A Striking Musician, Part Two

Georg Lankester continues his survey of the career of violinist Eddie South. Below follows the second part of the article Violinist Eddie South (1904 – 1962)   -   A Striking Musician, Part Two. The first part of the article is accessible here  

Eddie South
Eddie’s Recordings In France

The first appearance of the violinist was planned in the Club des Oiseaux in the Pavillion d’Elegance. Hot Club’s president, Hugues Panassié hurried to see South performing and on the initiative of secretary Charles Delaunay it was immediately after the concert decided to make recordings with Django in the studio.
Swing, SW 8 A - Eddie's Blues
His Masters’Voice (France) gladly accepted their request, and was prepared to record several titles of the violinist and Django Reinhardt, sometimes with a guest player. On 29 September 1937 two titles were recorded: Eddie’s Blues (by both artists) and Sweet Georgia Brown with Wilson Meyers added on bass.
Wilson Meyers
Moreover a recording of Lady be Good was made of three violinists: South, Grappelli and Michel Warlop, accompanied by Django, Chaput and Myers.
Michel Warlop
It is highly interesting to listen to these records. Here are two continents united viz. an American jazzman and a Belgian gypsy guitarist who created a new European swing style.

These records prove Eddie’s excellent violin playing, calm and inventive, backed by a unique rhythm, never monotone but full of variations and nicely swinging. Because of the guitar accompaniment the blues theme came forward even better. The recordings belong to the most beautiful that Eddie had made so far. His playing was so inspired that the Hot Club managers got the impression that he was somewhat envious of Grappelli’s position in the quintet.

He preferred the slow themes in which he could express his beautiful tone and could display trills. Eddie did not like so much fast runs although he certainly had these under control.

As mentioned earlier a record of the three best violinists of those days was made titled Lady be good in an arrangement by Django. One can listen to Eddie, Stéphane and Michel accompanied on two guitars and bass. After a typical Django solo each violin player gets its turn: Warlop a bit nervous, Grappelli as usual fully in control and South with several blues chords. The final chorus shows all violinists together with an arranged break.

Delaunay now came up with the idea to combine jazz improvisations with J.S. Bach’s music, played on violin. Though Eddie thought that this was a ridiculous suggestion those recordings were indeed made since Grappelli was interested because of the money it would generate.

For Django this was something fully unknown, but they let him listen to recordings of Yehudi Menuhin. On basis of those he prepared the way how to accompany. The guitarist admired Bach’s harmonies!
Swing, SW 18 A
Under the supervision of Charles Delaunay – the founder of the Swing label -  these recordings were made on the same day. It was a good initiative because these records are of historical value and illustrate the level of the musicians.

For the Swing label Delaunay also recorded duets of South and Grappelli with accompaniment, titles: Dinah and Daphne.
Swing, SW 12 B Daphne
It is fascinating to hear the different styles of these two artists and the beautiful alternating solos of Reinhardt.

SW 31 A Somebody Loves Me
On 23 November 1937 La voix de son Maître recorded two tracks of Eddie, Django and Paul Cordonnier (bass), “Somebody loves me” and “I can’t believe that you’re in love with me”, two romantic ballads.

And, of course, Hot Club fans enjoy the interpretation of Bach’s ‘minor concert’ performed by South, Grappelli and Reinhardt on the same date, followed by the improvised version of it (which included a guitar introduction). Finally the nice theme Fiddle Blues was played in an up-tempo. 

Brunswick flyer
In 1938 Eddie stayed some time in Holland where he made a few records for Brunswick. It would be the end of his European visits.

Back Home

Then he left Europa and made the voyage to his native country together with Benny Carter. During the Forties he played in several clubs among which Kelly’s Stables, had his own group and toured around with bass player Billy Taylor (known from the recordings with Rex Stewart and Django in Paris in ’39). He further worked with studio formations in Los Angeles and New York for MGM and other companies. Because of his popularity he also had his own radio program. In the Fifties Eddie also could be seen on television presented by well-known persons such as Herb Lyons and Dave Garroway.

Despite a declining health he kept playing. However, on 25 April 1962 he died in Chicago, far too early. Although, being a great violinist, he never got the reputation of Stuff Smith and Stephane Grappelli.

Some Features

Eddie South is in fact the most sophisticated violinist we have known. His first appaeranc as a classical musician most likely has been the reason to create such a subtle swing. He played in a very melodious way and produced pure and often soft notes.

He was fascinated by gypsy music and although many critics assert that he could not make this style his own, several recordings prove to the contrary. But some blues elements are certainly also noticable in his performances. Anyhow Eddie South surely has been a significant jazz violinist

Recommended recordings: Two guitars (1929), Eddie’s Blues (1937), Sweet Georgia Brown (1937),  Stompin’ at the Savoy (1941), Fiddle Ditty (1956).  

Georg Lankester

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1 comment:

  1. and another great review hit the web. Thank you very much Georg Lankester and Jorgen Larsen!
    I'll try and link this page on Facebook as requested by Georg,so others may profit from these revelations.
    keep swinging,