Stéphane Grappelli: Age 89 | Cause Of Death: UNDER THE KNIFE

(Born: January 26,1908 in Paris, Died: December 1,1997)

PARIS (Reuters) – French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, whose lively,elegant style captivated audiences for more than a half a century, died in Paris Monday after undergoing a hernia operation. He was 89.  

When the music magazine Down Beat first asked readers in 1936 to name their favorite jazz players, violinist Stephane Grappelli was prominent among them.   Here’s a far more impressive fact: In the magazine’s 1996 poll, 60 years later, his name was still there.  That was no “lifetime achievement award,” either, for Grappelli was still making the sweet swing music that characterized his long career, still touring regularly and making records, still sitting in on jazz sessions around the world.  

In 1993 a stroke caused him to miss just a month of performances; in 1994 surgery to replace a vein in his neck only cost him two months off stage. Almost literally until his death this week at the age of 89, Grappelli was a constant, vigorous figure in the world of jazz.  One of the first and greatest European jazzmen, Grappelli studied classical violin on scholarship at the Paris Conservatoire but fell in love with recordings of Louis Armstrong and Joe Venuti – choosing to play their music on violin, he said, because there wasn’t nearly as much competition as among sax players.  

Wandering the streets playing for food and spare change in 1929, he connected with the Belgian Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, forming the nucleus of the Hot Club Quintet that popularized American-style jazz on the Continent in the 1930s.  Grappelli’s contribution to jazz is perhaps as well chronicled as any in history: He recorded more than 100 albums filled with Gershwin and Cole Porter, with “Stardust” and “Satin Doll.”  His love of the music and the performer’s life was the stuff of legend.  “I will play until the final curtain,” he once promised. When the final  curtain fell, he had recently finished yet another tour, and his music  was still playing around the world. ~The Fresno Bee