Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Joe Venuti - Live Shots

Joe Venuti (1903 - 1978)
One of my all-time favorite jazz musicians is Joe Venuti, the father of jazz violin. Venuti's collaboration with Eddie Lang as a duo or together in various band combinations is thoroughly documented on records that remain indispensable examples of high quality jazz performance and should be available in the collection of any serious jazz connoisseur. Here is the Venuti-Lang duo in a precious sequence from the 1930 film King of Jazz performing Wild Cat

Following Eddie Lang's untimely death in March 1933, Venuti conducted a tour of Europe and the UK.  Upon returning to the US in 1935, he formed a big band and worked as its leader. Unfortunately, Venuti was less successful as a big band leader than as a soloist, and the band folded in 1943. After this period, Venuti transitioned from being in a position of relative prominence to one of ignominy. He moved to California in 1944 to become a studio musician with MGM, in addition to playing with other film and radio studios. He also appeared regularly on Bing Crosby's radio show during this time. Later, he returned to a small group format and continued to play and record in and around Los Angeles, while touring frequently. Throughout much of the 1950s Venuti made records and played at clubs. This was the beginning of about a 15-year lull in his career. In the early 1960s he was mostly inactive due to his development of alcoholism. The late 1960s, however, marked a revival in his career. During the 1970s, at the end of his life, Venuti toured extensively in Europe with a small ensemble. During this time he made his final recordings with names such as Earl Hines, George Barnes, Ross Tompkins, Dave McKenna, Marian McPartland, Scott Hamilton, Leon Redbone, and most notably Zoot Sims. Venuti continued to tour and play until his death in 1978 (excerpted info from Wikipedia, here)

Joe Venuti doin' things at the violin (photo by Roberto Polillo)
Below I'll insert some examples of Joe Venuti live performance from his late career that have been saved and uploaded at YouTube. Here are first two examples from a live concert in Copenhagen 1969. Venuti is accompanied by the Newport All Stars: George Wein (p) Barney Kessel (g) Larry Ridley (b) Don Lamond (d)

As mentioned above, during the 1970s Venuti toured extensively in Europe and from one of his frequent visits to Italy, here is a saved TV performance featuring Joe Venuti with Pino Calvi's Orchestra in a Gershwin medley

From a 1975 club date with Marian McPartland (p),  Major Holley (b) and Cliff Leeman (d) Joe Venuti performs China Boy

Venuti was also featured in a Dick Cavett show and here showcasted yet another example of his vitality and great musical chops late in life

In 1973, filmmaker Larry Stair made a short film titled Thank You, Joe Venuti which brings you into Joe Venuti's home, where you watch him fix himself a cup of instant coffee, sit down in his living room and then pick up his violin for some wonderful solo improvisations. He then drops in on the New Deal Rhythm Band for some swinging hot fiddle numbers. The film has been uploaded at YouTube and is inserted below in remembrance of a great artist - enjoy!


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