Here's another posting that comes by way of a request. A while back, Gene, a dedicated Eddie South fan, asked that Gems put up Eddie's 1959 Mercury recording, "The Distinguished Violin of Eddie South." Now that the holidays are behind us, we have the time to honor that request.
Lovers of jazz fiddle certainly know Stephane Grappelli, Stuff Smith and Joe Venuti. Most know that Ray Nance played a mean violin in addition blowing fine trumpet. But many jazz listeners may never have heard of Eddie South. Why? Probably because Eddie's career extends back to the early days of the swing movement and because he did most of his playing and recording in Europe. His career as a classical concert violinist was nixed early on in this country by his race and, like many of his contemporaries, he found more accepting audiences abroad. There, he was a major star.
|A 1937 promo card for a concert with the Hot Club of France, Django |
South was particularly taken with the folk music of Hungary and the Roma culture (gypsies, in non-PC parlance), and he frequently performed with Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt. A tune he picked up on a trip to Budapest in the late '20s became his theme song, and he played it right up until his death in 1962.
In the late 1950s, the Mercury/EmArcy record label began making recordings in Chicago under the "Wacker Series" imprint (after Wacker Drive in the Loop, the location of Mercury's studios). They did several with Eddie South, and two of those are offered here. The second comes courtesy of Gene, the gent whose request inspired this posting.
"The Distinguished Violin" features Eddie in 1958 working with an all-Chicago rhythm section that includes pianist Eddie Higgins, guitarist John Gray and bassist/producer Johnny Pate. These gents are modernists, several generations removed from South's days as a member of Freddie Keppard's South Side group, but they perfectly complement the violinist's Fritz Kreisler-esque pyrotechnics.
|Eddie's back in town! A clipping from Down Beat |
from 1948, around the time South was working
as a soloist with Earl Hines' orchestra.
As always, the files dubbed by Gems come from the original vinyl. Those provided by Gene also sound like they were taken from the original LP. Many thanks for the suggestion and for "Birds," Gene!