Untitled - Arbors Records
Svend Asmussen: Makin’ Whoopee! … and Music!
Notes by Ellen Bick Asmussen
Not many living musicians can match the Danish jazz violinist Svend Asmussen.
Recently celebrating 75 years as a professional, Asmussen has played with all the greats
– from Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker and Django to Duke, Basie, Toots, King Cole,
Hoagy Carmichael, Herbie Hancock, Benny Goodman, and Dick Hyman. One
might say with other greats, as Asmussen has been acclaimed by American critics as
“the Great Dane” and “Fiddler supreme.” When Duke Ellington first jammed with
him in 1950, the Duke declared: “Man, you play a hell of a lot of fiddle.” Benny
exclaimed “It’s been a long time since I had this kind of fun!” after a gig in 1980. And
who else can claim he or she played with Fats Waller? Svend may well be the last living person to have done so.
In Scandinavia, Svend Asmussen has been a household name for 75 years and was
once voted almost as popular with Swedes as the Danish King. Until recently,
though, Svend has been known internationally mostly only by aficionados. (He chose
to remain in Scandinavia when Benny Goodman sent for him; chalk up this reaction
to Danish modesty.)
Now, at age 93, he is making headway with a DVD on his amazing career which
Deutsche Grammophon/Shanachie will be distributing worldwide. He published his
autobiography, June Nights, in 2005; it is still only in Danish. And in 2007 he wrote
music for my own Danish/English poetry cycle, Scandinavian Solstice. One can say
that it’s never too late for an international breakthrough!
He proudly records here on Arbors Records with superb musicians from Florida’s
Tampa Bay area: Richard Drexler, college music teacher and equally talented on bass
as on piano; laid-back drummer Tony Martin and drummer Tom Carabasi, expert
in Brazilian sounds, who lends that aura to Svend’s composition Fiddler in Rio with
Tony on shakers. Svend Asmussen is joined by his own Danish guitarist of 15 years,
Jacob Fischer, and we feel their joyful empathy.
“When I play, I’m like a child with wondrous toys; it’s like ice-skating or skiing when
I was 10.” Svend adds, “I want to tell a story.” He has always been musically experimental, unstoppably curious. This album illustrates his wide range, from Brazilian
beats in Fiddler in Rio, Trubbel by Swedish troubadour-poet Olle Adolphson, and
Copacabana to evergreens like The Nearness of You and Skylark, both composed
by Hoagy Carmichael. Svend recorded with Hoagy – and afterwards they drank vintage whiskey at New York’s St. Regis Hotel.
Richard Drexler on piano makes rain and Svend on fiddle creates fireworks and thunder on Singin’ in the Rain: Svend first performed it at age 12 during the Hornbæk
harbor festival in Denmark; the then piano-playing pharmacist’s son had just gotten
the charts from the U.S.A. With Richard Drexler’s spiritual support on organ, piano
and bass, Svend performs his Sermon for Stuff, a gospel tribute to an idol, deceased
black violinist Stuff Smith, whom Svend frequently played with when Stuff lived for
many years in Denmark. The quartet fills the church with soul.
Asmussen has played with both cult-guitarist gypsy Django Reinhardt and violinist
Stephane Grappelli; on Django’s lyrical Nuages, Svend, Jacob, and Richard execute
their own version. Be surprised by the group’s rendition of funeral standard Danny
Boy where Richard doubles on bass and organ. The ballad Just a Gigolo and
swing classics You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me and There Will Never Be
Another You make me want to dance. The spotlight shines on Jacob’s intricate guitar
solo, Gypsy, and on Richard’s piano solo of his own composition Banjo. In Things
Ain’t What They Used to Be, the group shuffles into a blues mode. And the title
cut, Makin’ Whoopee!, features layered violins and sexy detail.
Unpredictable? That’s the elder statesman of violin jazz, especially considering that
his marriage to yours truly has inspired him, he asserts, to “makin’ whoopee!” Svend
Asmussen makes that – and great music at an age when most people are either retired
or no longer with us.
I choose to emphasize the meaning of “whoopee!” as “expressing exuberant joy, rejoicing noisily” especially for the fact that Svend Asmussen is still going strong. Perhaps
we should create a new idiomatic expression: “Still going Svend!”
– Ellen Bick Asmussen, March, 2009
(Ellen, Svend’s wife, is an author and literary critic.)
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by:
Rachel and Mat Domber for Arbors Records, Inc.
January 5, 6, 7 and February 3 and 11, 2009 at Audio
Images, Bradenton, FL n SRS Circle Surround Sound®
Mike Badalamenti and Gary Baldassari
NEW FROM ARBORS RECORDS
PIZZARELLI PARTY With the Arbors All Stars ARCD 19391
Lew Green and Joe Muranyi: Together ARCD 19377
Marty Grosz: Hot Winds, The Classic Sessions ARCD 19379
The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet Plays Music From South Pacific
Featuring Rebecca Kilgore and Eddie Erickson ARCD 19380
Shelly Berg: The Nearness of You ARCD 19378
John Allred, Jeff Barnhart, Danny Coots: The ABC’s Of Jazz ARCD 19371
Duke Heitger and Bernd Lhotzky: Doin’ the Voom Voom ARCD 19382
Eddie Erickson Live with His International Swing Band: I’m Old Fashioned ARCD19373
Johnny Varro Featuring Ken Peplowski: Two Legends of Jazz ARCD 19363
The Antti Sarpila Quartet: We’d Like New York … in June ARCD 19375
Dave Bennett Celebrates 100 Years of Benny: With Special Guests Dick Hyman and
Bucky Pizzarelli ARCD 19389
Bucky Pizzarelli and Strings: So Hard to Forget ARCD 19370
Davern Wilber Summit at March of Jazz 1994-1996 DVD ARDVD-3
Jessica Molaskey: A Kiss to Build a Dream On ARCD 19384
WRITE ARBORS RECORDS FOR A COMPLETE CATALOG
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Svend Asmussen: Makin’ Whoopee! … and Music!
Svend Asmussen, the 93-year-old elder statesman of violin jazz, who performed with Duke
Ellington, Benny Goodman, Hoagy Carmichael and Fats Waller, still makes whoopee and
great music at an age when most people are either retired or no longer with us.
1. Makin’ Whoopee! (Gus Kahn, Walter
2. Trubbel (Olle Adolphson) (3:55)
3. There Will Never Be Another You
(Mack Gordon, Harry Warren) (4:08)
4. Singin’ in the Rain (Arthur Freed. Nacio
Herb Brown) (4:25)
5. Fiddler in Rio (Svend Asmussen) (4:36)
6. Sermon for Stuff (Svend Asmussen)
7. Nuages (Django Reinhardt) (5:09)
8. You Brought a New Kind of Love
to Me (Irving Kahal, Pierre Norman,
Sammy Fain) (3:59)
9. Danny Boy (Traditional) (3:33)
10. Gypsy (L. Wolfe Gilbert, Matty
Malneck, Frank Signorelli) (3:16)
11. The Nearness of You (Ned Washington,
Hoagy Carmichael) (3:23)
12. Things Ain’t What They Used to Be
(Mercer Ellington) (4:38)
13. Skylark (Johnny Mercer, Hoagy
14. Banjo (Richard Drexler) (4:22)
15. Just a Gigolo (Irving Caesar, Leonello
16. Copacabana (Al Stillman, Alberto Dias
Ribeiro, Carlos Alberto Ferreira Braga )
Svend Asmussen: Violin
Richard Drexler: Bass, Piano, Organ
Tony Martin: Drums (except Track 4), Shakers (Track 4)
Tom Carabasi: Drums (Track 4)
Produced by ARBORS RECORDS, INC.
© 2009 Arbors Records, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable law.