"A Tribute to Stephane Grappelli" comes to Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts

"A Tribute to Stephane Grappelli" comes to Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts

Two contemporary jazz musicians will celebrate a jazz legend's trademark blend of sweet lyricism and hot swing in "A Tribute to Stephane Grappelli" on Thursday, April 14, at 7 and 9 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The concerts are part of the Quick Center's year-long Jazz Tribute Project, will take place in the intimate Wien Experimental Theatre.

Image: Torff and Sabien The evening features the rhythmic and bluesy bow of jazz violinist Randy Sabien and the stunning technical dexterity of bass virtuoso Brian Torff, music program director at Fairfield University. Torff has a particular interest in the project, having played with Grappelli in the 1970s and 1980s.

"I had the incredible honor of playing with Stephane for a number of years and he taught me many things, most importantly, that the inner spirit of the person drives the art," Torff said. "He really exemplified that."

"A Tribute to Stephane Grappelli" has captivated audiences around the country with its blend of Grappelli standards, including many favorites from his time with the Quintette du Hot Club de Paris, which he helped form with famed gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt in the 1930s. Torff and Sabien pepper the concert with their own compositions and stories about Grappelli. The acoustic concert's ensemble also includes two guitarists.

A self-taught musician, Grappelli is regarded as the grandfather of jazz violinists. Influenced early on by classical musicians Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, he combined swing rhythms with a haunting lyricism not usually found in that style. Grappelli started playing in Paris restaurants in his early teens and, by 15, he was a piano accompanist for silent films.

"In the cinema, I had to play Mozart principally but was allowed some Gershwin in funny films," he once said of the experience. "Then I discovered jazz and my vocation and kissed Amadeus goodbye."

In addition to performing live for decades, Grappelli's distinct sound can be heard on hundreds of records, including work with Oscar Peterson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Yehudi Menuhin and others. He died in 1997 at the age of 89.

Sabien brings years of experience to his polished performance. His background in jazz, blues, standards and original compositions make him a favorite guest on radio's "A Prairie Home Companion" and TV's "Austin City Limits."

The violinist is also an accomplished educator and innovator, having founded the String Department at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Co-author of "Jazz Philharmonic," Sabien has developed a knack for teaching students of all ages, often through the artist-in-residence positions he has held in 19 states, Canada and Europe.

Torff's career began in 1974, when bassist Milt Hinton offered him a chance to tour with jazz singer Cleo Laine. During the 1970s, Torff recorded and performed with pianists Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland. played with pianist Erroll Garner's last group, and worked with Oliver Nelson and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Torff recorded three albums with pianist George Shearing and the duo toured extensively and played at the Reagan White House in 1982. Their third album won a Grammy for vocalist Mel Torme.

Now a member of the seven-piece band Thunderstick, Torff is also a noted composer. He has written scores performed by the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony and has been an integral member of the elite ensemble of "The Spirit of Django Reinhardt," a concert that has toured in the United States and Europe.

Torff is "a virtuoso bassist, imaginative and distinctive in his solos, but more than that, a solid composer and arranger," a New York Times reviewer wrote.

Tickets are $20. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit www.quickcenter.com.

Posted On: 03-16-2005 10:03 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 199