Stephane Grappelli – Plays Jerome Kern (1987; reissue)

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This isn’t so much a rethinking of American Broadway composer Jerome Kern’s work as a deeply romantic, light jazz/classical aside. Recorded in 1987, the same year the legendary French gypsy jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli passed, Plays Jerome Kern — re-released this month by Just a Memory Records — is couched in a luminous, almost pillowy orchestral score by Ettore Stratta.

The initial gripe might have been that Grappelli didn’t goose the material along more often — as he does so effortlessly on a standout update of “All The Things You Are.” Still, across 11 songbook-defining Kern compositions (among them, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “A Fine Romance,” “Ol’ Man River,” “I Won’t Dance” and “All The Things You Are”) it’s hard not to succumb to the simple joys of these themes — and with Grappelli.

He comes off like a modest and accommodating gentleman scholar, deeply talented but perhaps a touch too reverent … and yet so lastingly, brilliantly ingratiating that you end up falling in love with this record anyway.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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