Stephane Grappelli: Master of Jazz Violin

The popularity of jazz violin reached its heyday in the 1930s, thanks to a French violinist named Stephane Grappelli, who not only revolutionized the style, but also introduced it into mainstream jazz culture. Grappelli.

Having studied violin since the age of 12, Grappelli was admitted into the Conservatoire de Paris and got his start as an entertainer by busking in the streets, performing along the thoroughfares of Paris and Montmarte. He broadened his musical horizons by studying piano, saxophone and accordion as well, and even worked as a silent film pianist for local movie houses. These experiences exposed him to a variety of musical styles, and helped him develop a natural aptitude for adapting his own burgeoning style to the popular culture of the times.

In the early 1930s, Grappelli met a young gypsy musician from Belgium–a guitarist named Django Reinhardt. Together, the two of them would musically recreate the history of modern jazz. Both struggling to make a career, Reinhardt and Grappelli started having amateur jam sessions with other like-minded musicians, creating contacts that would serve them well in the years ahead. Several of these musicians joined Reinhardt and Grappelli as they formed a new band, the “Quintette du Hot Club de France.” Influenced by his idol Louis Armstrong, Reinhardt gave the band a sound that harkened back to the early jazz studio sessions of New Orleans musicians such as Armstrong and King Oliver, but with a difference; the “Quintette du Hot Club” was one of the few professional all-string jazz ensembles in the world.

The combination of Reinhardt’s melting guitar playing, along with the synchronated/pizzicato style of playing developed by Grappelli, gave the band a distinctive, lilting, sweet sound, contrasting with the brassiness of American jazz bands. Both players gave their instruments a voice not commonly heard; Reinhardt showed that the guitar could be a lead melody instrument in jazz, while Grappelli created a whole new language of jazz for the violin, a heretofore unheard-of concept.

For the next several decades, Django and Grappelli continued to perform together; although the Quintette disbanded at the beginning of World War II in 1939, the two reunited after the war. Grappelli also began to make a name for himself playing with other great jazz artists of the era, including Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Claude Bolling, Jean-Luc Ponty and Bucky Pizzarelli.

Grappelli’s influence on musicians–and in particular, jazz violinists–has been monumental. One reason for this is that, like Louis Armstrong, Grappelli’s musical style crossed many traditional borders and embraced a wide spectrum of styles. Also like Armstrong, Grappelli’s recording and performing career was exceptionally long lived, lasting from the 1930s until his death in 1997. In particular, Grappelli’s studio and stage work with modern folk, country, jazz and even rock musicians has helped bring his artistry to new generations. During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Grappelli toured, performed and recorded with two of the top young acoustic artists of the era, mandolinist David Grisman and violinist Mark O’Connor, both of whom have been strongly influenced by Grappelli.

While Grappelli performed in a wide variety of musical genres, from classical to folk to jazz, it is as a jazz artist that he is primarily known, and his recordings with Reinhardt, in which he reinvented the sound of jazz violin, continue to be revered by jazz aficionados today.

Stephane Grappelli: Master of Jazz Violin

The popularity of jazz violin reached its heyday in the 1930s, thanks to a French violinist named Stephane Grappelli, who not only revolutionized the style, but also introduced it into mainstream jazz culture. Grappelli.

Having studied violin since the age of 12, Grappelli was admitted into the Conservatoire de Paris and got his start as an entertainer by busking in the streets, performing along the thoroughfares of Paris and Montmarte. He broadened his musical horizons by studying piano, saxophone and accordion as well, and even worked as a silent film pianist for local movie houses. These experiences exposed him to a variety of musical styles, and helped him develop a natural aptitude for adapting his own burgeoning style to the popular culture of the times.

In the early 1930s, Grappelli met a young gypsy musician from Belgium–a guitarist named Django Reinhardt. Together, the two of them would musically recreate the history of modern jazz. Both struggling to make a career, Reinhardt and Grappelli started having amateur jam sessions with other like-minded musicians, creating contacts that would serve them well in the years ahead. Several of these musicians joined Reinhardt and Grappelli as they formed a new band, the “Quintette du Hot Club de France.” Influenced by his idol Louis Armstrong, Reinhardt gave the band a sound that harkened back to the early jazz studio sessions of New Orleans musicians such as Armstrong and King Oliver, but with a difference; the “Quintette du Hot Club” was one of the few professional all-string jazz ensembles in the world.

The combination of Reinhardt’s melting guitar playing, along with the synchronated/pizzicato style of playing developed by Grappelli, gave the band a distinctive, lilting, sweet sound, contrasting with the brassiness of American jazz bands. Both players gave their instruments a voice not commonly heard; Reinhardt showed that the guitar could be a lead melody instrument in jazz, while Grappelli created a whole new language of jazz for the violin, a heretofore unheard-of concept.

For the next several decades, Django and Grappelli continued to perform together; although the Quintette disbanded at the beginning of World War II in 1939, the two reunited after the war. Grappelli also began to make a name for himself playing with other great jazz artists of the era, including Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Claude Bolling, Jean-Luc Ponty and Bucky Pizzarelli.

Grappelli’s influence on musicians–and in particular, jazz violinists–has been monumental. One reason for this is that, like Louis Armstrong, Grappelli’s musical style crossed many traditional borders and embraced a wide spectrum of styles. Also like Armstrong, Grappelli’s recording and performing career was exceptionally long lived, lasting from the 1930s until his death in 1997. In particular, Grappelli’s studio and stage work with modern folk, country, jazz and even rock musicians has helped bring his artistry to new generations. During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Grappelli toured, performed and recorded with two of the top young acoustic artists of the era, mandolinist David Grisman and violinist Mark O’Connor, both of whom have been strongly influenced by Grappelli.

While Grappelli performed in a wide variety of musical genres, from classical to folk to jazz, it is as a jazz artist that he is primarily known, and his recordings with Reinhardt, in which he reinvented the sound of jazz violin, continue to be revered by jazz aficionados today.

Milla Jovovich Takes on More Zombies in “Resident Evil: Retribution”

Milla Jovovich has taken on some very memorable roles in her movie career, which began at the tender age of nine. Among them are turns in the cult hit “Dazed and Confused” as Michelle Burroughs and in “The Fifth Element” as Leeloo, opposite Bruce Willis. Despite her admirable resume, she is probably best known for her work as Alice in all of the “Resident Evil” films. To simply bill her as the actress from the “Resident Evil” films would be to do her a disservice. Acting is actually only one of three careers Jovovich has embarked upon in her life.

Though she was acting by the age of nine, she soon took up modeling, as well. Blessed with preternaturally good looks and a way with the camera, Jovovich left school at age 12 to focus full time on modeling. Both her parents had struggled since leaving the former USSR, so she knew the money she was making from modeling would help her family. Her face has graced more than 150 international magazine covers in her career, and she once ranked as the top earner among all models worldwide. She did it because the money was good, and it allowed her to be choosier about the acting roles she was beginning to take on.

Jovovich enrolled in acting school and began taking small parts in television shows such as “Married… With Children,” and “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.” She courted controversy by appearing nude in “Return to the Blue Lagoon” when she was just 15. The controversy only boosted her career, however, leading to more movie roles. Eventually, she took on the role of Alice in the first “Resident Evil,” probably not knowing just how many sequels it would launch.

“Resident Evil” began as a video game which was adapted into a film. Many video games have been made into movies, but the “Resident Evil” franchise stands apart because it is the most financially successful video game-movie franchise in history. It has spawned four sequels, the latest of which is “Resident Evil: Retribution,” which will be released on September 14, 2012. Milla Jovovich ‘s Alice is one of the few characters in the series who has lived long enough to be in all five of the films. In this fifth installment, Alice sees the destruction that her former employer, Umbrella Corporation, has wreaked on the entire planet. The company’s experimental drug, T-Virus, has gone global, turning many people into flesh-eating zombies. After all she has been through in the first four movies, Alice is in the mood for a little retribution, hence the title of the film.

So, what exactly would lead a woman across the planet from the United States to Asia to Europe and back, just to get some revenge on a company? In the first film, “Resident Evil,” Alice is a security operative whose mind is wiped by Red Queen, who controls the Hive. The Hive is the underground experimental unit of Umbrella Corporation that is top secret. There, they experiment with the T-Virus on unsuspecting humans, including some employees. Alice is not happy about her memory being wiped and plots her revenge by the end of the film.

In the sequel “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” the T-Virus has reached the surface, meaning residents of Raccoon City are at risk, The mayor closes all major thoroughfares leading out of the city, and Alice’s only choice is to hop on a helicopter. The helicopter crashes, and Alice is rescued and then experimented on by the Detroit branch of Umbrella Corporation.

In “Resident Evil: Extinction,” Umbrella Corporation sees Alice’s value as a fighter and wishes to replicate her power. They make several Alice clones, testing them to see if any have her skills. Some end up being worthy opponents; others do not. By the end of the film, the real Alice is suddenly confronted by thousands of her clones.

In “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” Alice has the clones do her bidding, leading to the takedown of the Tokyo branch of Umbrella Corporation. The clones are then destroyed, leaving Alice as the only one of her kind, complete with superhuman capabilities as the result of all the experimentation on her. She hatches a plan to start a survivors’ colony, and all seems to be going well until the end, when her greatest nemesis turns out to be alive.

After all that Alice has been through at the hands of Umbrella Corporation, is it any wonder why she would want retribution? The fifth installment of the series is aptly named and completely appropriate. There are hints that if this entry is financially successful, there may very well be a sixth film. Where the script for that one would take Alice is anyone’s guess. Whatever happens, though, don’t be surprised if she wants more revenge on Umbrella Corporation.