Stéphane Grappelli (26 January 1908 – 1 December 1997) was a French jazz violinist who founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France with guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1934. It was one of the first all-string jazz bands.
For the first three decades of his career, he was billed using a gallicised spelling of his last name, Grappelly, reverting to "Grappelli" in 1969. The "Grappelli" spelling is now used almost universally when referring to the violinist – even on reissues of his early work.
Grappelli was born in Paris, France, to Italian/French parents: his father, marquess Ernesto Grappelli, was born in Alatri, Lazio. His French mother died when he was four and his father left to fight in World War I. As a result, at six he was accepted into Isadora Duncan's dance school, where he learnt to love French Impressionist music. Grappelli started his musical career busking on the streets of Paris and Montmartre with a violin. He began playing the violin at age 12, and attended the Conservatoire de Paris studying music theory, between 1924 and 1928. He made his living by busking on the side until he gained fame in Paris as a violin virtuoso. He also worked as a silent film pianist while at the conservatory and played the saxophone and accordion. Grappelli called his piano "My Other Love" and (many years later) released an album of solo piano of the same name.
For the first three decades of his musical career, Grappelli was billed as Stéphane Grappelly. Grappelli's own explanation for the changed spelling was that he was tired of people mispronouncing his last name as "Grappell-eye". It has also been suggested that Grappelli had changed his name in order to avoid military service in Italy, although this claim has been greeted with skepticism by his biographers.
His early fame came playing with the Quintette du Hot Club de France with Django Reinhardt, which disbanded in 1939 due to World War II. In 1940, a little known jazz pianist by the name of George Shearing made his debut as a sideman in Grappelli's band.
Full article ▸