Svend Asmussen, the Danish violinist who thrived in eight decades of stardom, died yesterday—three weeks short of his 101st birthday. He was one of the handful of violinists who in the 1930s proved the instrument capable of swing and emotional expression at the highest jazz level. He may well have been the only man still alive in the new century who had played with Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Stuff Smith, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Asmussen and his wife Ellen were surprise members of the audience at a concert in his honor at last summer’s Ystad Jazz Festival in Sweden.
Our first clip of Asmussen in action is with Alice Babs and guitarist Ulrik Neumann, who were known as the Swe-danes. They thrived in the late 1950s. This piece was a record, radio and television hit in Scandinavia for years.
In the next video, we find Asmussen 30-odd years later at the Club Montmartre in Copenhagen. His accompanists are Kenny Drew, piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass; and Ed Thigpen, drums. The piece is by Duke Ellington.
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