Stephane Grappelli

The National Fiddler Hall of Fame



Stephane Grappelli


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Stéphane Grappelli (1908 - 1997) is best known for his work with the gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt in the Hot Club of France Quintet. He was a pioneer in violin jazz, popularizing the style with audiences in the United States, Europe, and around the world. Grappelli was born in France in 1908 to an Italian father, Ernesto and a French mother, Anna. Grappelli has one daughter Evelyn, but he has an extended family of countless violinists and fiddlers who admire him. He has mentored many, performed and recorded with many.

Grappelli began playing the violin at age 12 when his father pawned his own suit to buy him a three-quarter size violin. He took violin lessons, but he preferred to learn on his own. He said, "My first lessons were in the streets, watching how other violinists played.” He studied at the Conservatory of Paris, where he graduated with honors. He was inspired by Joe Venuti, and Grappelli began to create his own jazz style. Grappelli played in movie theaters and dance bands before meeting guitarist extraordinaire, Django Reinhardt. They fit well musically from the start, even though their lifestyles were very different, Grappelli more sophisticated, and Django from a gypsy background. Together they founded the Hot Club of France Quintet when Stefane was 24. It was an extremely popular all-string jazz band, with violin, three acoustic guitars and bass. Together they composed, recorded and performed many numbers which have become jazz standards today.

Grappelli, known for his brilliant lightning fast technique, fast vibrato and pure tone, is emulated by many musicians and has been called "the grandfather of jazz violinists".

When the Quintet disbanded, Grappelli formed a band in London, and jazz pianist George Shearing made his debut as a sideman in Grappelli’s band. Reinhardt and Grappelli reunited and made a series of recordings, resulting in the acclaimed multi-disc album, “Djangology.”

Grappelli enjoyed ample time in the United States, concertized, and played on literally hundreds of recordings, including sessions with Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and Claude Bolling, Jean-Luc Ponty, Stuff Smith, Paul Simon, Mark O’Connor and David Grisman.

He played on stage for over six decades, bringing jazz violin to new heights in the eyes of the musical world and inspiring fiddlers and all musicians world-wide. The National Fiddler Hall of Fame honored Stefane Grappelli as a 2016 Inductee.