The Evolution of Jazz Violins

August 9, 2012 | By | Reply More

Since the early 20’s, violins have made their way into the entrancing world of jazz and have cemented their unique place amidst the traditional jazz instruments. The early jazz violinists Eddie South, Stuff Smith, Claude Williams and many others were responsible for the up thrust in the usage of violins in jazz recordings.

The history of violins in jazz dates back to the traditional and swing era of jazz. Apart from the aforementioned jazz violinists, many European jazz violinists came into the limelight – Stéphane Grappelli, a famous French jazz violinist teamed up with Django Reinhardt, a virtuoso jazz guitarist from Belgium formed one of the very first all-string jazz groups, Quintette du Hot Club de France. Another European jazz violinist from Copenhagen, Denmark – Svend Asmussen was invited to play along with Grappelli and renowned jazz pianist and multi-instrumentalist Ray Nance to record the Jazz Violin Session, which is still considered to be one of the brightest jazz violin recordings of this era.

Just like every other genre in music, Jazz found itself evolving with jazz virtuosos and artists collaborating with musicians from other genres. Jazz Fusion bloomed with acts like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa collaborating with Grappelli and French composer Jean-Luc Ponty. Apart from the usage of violins in Nu Jazz and Contemporary, violins have often been plugged with wah pedals, fuzzboxes and phasers to create distinctive sounds for songs written in jazz-rock fusion.

The use of an instrument amplifier or a preamplifier wired to the violins became a necessity for the instrument to be at par with the loud rock instruments being used. In 1930’s, specially built electric violins were started being extensively used in jazz-rock. Clearly, moving forward the present, the usage of violins in jazz has come a long way from Ponty playing on an Elton John record.


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Category: Jazz Violin

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