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New CD: Helmut Zacharias- Swing Violin

MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
edited December 2006 in Violin Posts: 6,116


  • BarengeroBarengero Auda CityProdigy
    Posts: 527
    Patrick Saussois, the editor of this CD, wrote some liner notes. I put them here:

    "It´s unusual when talking about jazz violin, to mention the name of Helmut ZACHARIAS. Somehow, these tracks recorded between the 29th of november 1941 and the 6th of january 1943 may have changed the judgement of many jazz fans about this very spezial kind of music: (Jazz on) strings jazz.

    If our violin player has spent his life mostly doing music for movies, light music, even classical music, it´s true that his natural attraction for jazz has led him many times in recording studios, where he cuts many tracks, as good as the best well known jazz players could have done. Four years only after his birth (27.01.1920) in Berlin, the young Helmut, son of a composer and of a singer, astonished his folks with the way he learned the violin technique. His first tool (entierly made of metal) was given to him at Xmas by his father when he was only two years old.

    At six he started on the stage of a berliner cabaret (night club) in a band playing his father´s compositions. At the age of 11 years he played the Mozart G concerto for violin on a radio broadcast. It´s no surprise that a few years later he was considered as the prodigy of the Century. At 16 while studing at the high school of music, he joined the Berlin Chamber Orchestra, after getting two important prizes. On his debut one could already guess a fututre concert-performer, but finally it´s in the light music where his name aquired international stature, with many hits in numerous countries: in the U.S. in 1956, the year when he receives the „Grand Prix du Disque“ in France he started at famous Paris Olympia, in Italy in 1963, in England in 1964 with the hit „Tokyo-Melody“, he sold about 15.000.000 records, but without turning his back to jazz and classical music. In fact he recorded jazz music periodicaly until 1976, mostly with german musicians. His guitar player since the 40th was Coco Schumann. It´s very strange to note that there is no track recorded with international jazzmen (as far as I know).

    On the 29th november 1941 Helmut Zacharias recorded in the Odeon Studio two tracks of his record at the head of an orchestra composed of (like the famous „Quintet du Hot Club de France“) three guitars, double bass plus a harpsichord wich gives a lighter music sound. This music was recorded for dancing. We can notice that there is no american standard on this CD. It´s quite surprising for a jazz record, in a time when it was very rare to compose entierly a program, specially in Europe, where most of the musicians wanted to identify themselves with the american model. It is useful to recall that these tracks where recorded during the second world war in a country where the american music was banned. Strangely enough jazz music had his place: Charie Tabor and his swing orchestra was one of the propaganda mears, in the hands of the Reich by broadcasting music of negro-american influence, in english language but of course with nazi theses.

    It´s no surprise that Helmut Zacharias recorded this kind of music in those uneasy times although this kind of string jazz was considered by the nazis (a little bit too much in favor of jews, gypsies and hungarian people).

    Of course when listening to these tracks we can draw a parallel with the „Quintet du Hot Club de France“ ort he Venuti/Lang duet. Grappelli was born in 1908 and Venuti in 1894 and they have certanly influenced our violin player but it is evident that Helmut Zacharias show us a very personal style with the great vigor of calssical musician, but with the free and easy inspiration of a real jazzman. In fact very few musicians had managed to combine this two dispositions. There is a lot of examples of artist of renown who failed at this exercice. The strict discipline of the concert performer and the compulsary and perilous sense of improvisation distinctive to jazzmen are two things very difficult to combine.

    These reflections lead us to draw a parallel between three other jazz violin players, may be less known than the two masters above, the french Georges Effrosse and Michel Warlop and the american Eddie South. Same route from classical training to jazz music with the same elegant perfection, with an innate sense of syncopation specific to swinging music. As for the parallele drawn with the famous Quintet of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli i fit does not stop with the instrumentale formula, the Alfio Grasso guitar style that we hear here with our virtuoso in the lineage of Eddie Lang or of american country swinging guitar players, leads the comparison coming to a Sudden end, when we listen to his first soli. We have to notice the extreme care taken with the arrangements: every theme is like a goldsmith´s piece. In the midst of this jewel box Helmut Zacharias´wide vibrato and his natura lease have a wonderful effect, and we are surprised by the fact that this musician was only in his twenties when he recorded these tracks.

    If the first ten tracks recorded in the formula discrived above string quintet with the harpsichord, the last four tracks are recorded with ten musicians with four more melodic instruments: clarinet, alto, flute, oboe, wich give a more classical appearance, less swinging but with the same rhythm section without any drums.

    Towards the end of this record, there is a slight deterioration in the sound quality due to inferior quality because of the war time when raw materials were lacking.

    Honoured and recognized in his country as well as abroad Helmut Zacharias deserved to be discovered again as the great violin player he always was.

    Patrick Saussois

    English translation by Jean-Claude Beneteau"

  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,752
    Thanks for putting that up, Barengero-there are so many discs coming through the shop that I don't know enough about.

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