People have been asking about Tim Kliphuis' Mel Bay book/CD on Grappelli style. I wrote up a review for Fiddler Magazine before realizing that Paul Anastasio had written one as well. So I decided to post my review here. Hope it helps!
Stéphane Grappelli: Gypsy Jazz Violin by Tim Kliphuis
[Mel Bay Publications, Inc. [url=http://www.melbay.com]www.melbay.com[/url]
; #4 Industrial Drive, Pacific, Mo. 63069]
Stéphane Grappelli, whose 1930’s recordings with Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, defined the role of the violin in what is now known as “Gypsy jazz”, was notoriously bad at explaining his own playing technique. “The bow”, he once remarked, “ must go up and down.” Fortunately for contemporary students of this ever more popular genre, Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis is equally adept at teaching Grappelli style swing as playing it. For some years now, Tim has been leading workshops aimed at helping classical and folk fiddlers overcome the key stumbling blocks that fiddlers inevitably encounter when they try to pick up Grappelli’s signature brand of swing violin. In this book, he lays out the key ingredients of the Grappelli sound – his use of accents and ghost notes, bowings, positions and vibrato. He then introduces the basics of improvisation through the use of arpeggios – outlining the notes of each chord and then adding color tones. The book then turns to an analysis of six of Grappelli’s improvisations, which provide opportunities to introduce further nuances of phrasing and harmony, such as the use of chromatics and diminished chords, slurring, slides, and harmonics.
While it is, of course, impossible to learn to play jazz from a book, what this book does so nicely is focus our attention on those specific aspects of Grappelli’s approach to the violin that really defined his unique sound. By choosing examples from different time periods, Tim even pinpoints differences in phrasing between Grappelli’s classic recordings and his later more “modern” sound. Thanks to this attention to detail, even experienced jazz fiddlers are likely to pick up some tricks from this book. For the novice, this is a great way to get started. You will need to be able to read music to fully take advantage of it, although there is an accompanying CD that contains most of the examples used in the book (but not the Grappelli improvisations analyzed – for those, you should to listen to the original recordings anyway). For most examples, a knowledge of first position is sufficient.
Having observed Tim’s pedgogical skills at his workshops, I had high hopes for this book. I am happy to say that he did an excellent job of translating his in-person lessons to the printed page. For anyone with an interest in Gypsy Jazz or swing violin in general, this should be required reading.
- Peter Anick