Today is the 100th birthday of the great Danish violinist Svend Asmussen. Without going into the details of Asmussen’s long, varied and influential career, let us simply recognize him as one of the handful (or fewer) of violinists who in the 1930s proved their instrument capable of swing and emotional expression at the highest jazz level. He may well be the only man alive who played with Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Stéphane Grappelli, Stuff Smith and Duke Ellington.
Our first clip is of Asmussen, Alice Babs and guitarist Ulrik Neumann, who were known as the Swe-danes, performing a piece that was a hit in Scandinavia for years. They thrived in the late 1950s.
In the next video, we find Asmussen in 1986 at the Club Montmartre in Copenhagen. His accompanists are Kenny Drew, piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass; and Ed Thigpen, drums. The piece is by Duke Ellington.
Thanks to Sven Bjerstedt of Lund University in Malmö, Sweden, for the reminder about Asmussen’s birthday.