This duo of Grappelli-Pablos belongs together because they were taken from the same concert, played live at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark on July 6, 1979. Live albums such as this were part of what made Norman Granz’s label so successful, as they both avoided the expenses of studio time and also captured the raw energy of great musicians playing before a living and breathing audience. These are especially nice ones, recorded well, and just utterly juicy with music flowing from the hands of true masters.
The first record features just a trio of Grapelli, with Joe pass and Niels Pedersen accompanying. The audience adores the trio, with resident “Great Dane” bassist Pedersen a favorite son to be sure (but no less deserving of accolades, regardless of provenance). Between the two records this one is my favorite by a hair, if only because of its minimalism – each of these masterful musicians gets ample time to show off their chops, and they get down and dirty with some beautiful improvised melodies as they track through the changes with effortless aplomb. Grappelli, though up in years, was not at a loss for his extraordinary lyricism and playfulness. In fact, I’d say that these two words, lyricism and playfulness, describe the music on this record to a “T” – and if you are at all a fan of *any* of these musicians, you’ll be a fan of all of them by the end of the record. From the opening track, “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” through to the end of the record this LP swoons with gorgeous melody-making.
The next record, “Skol”, brings a couple of great musicians into the fold: Oscar Peterson on piano and Mickey Roker on drums. Everything gets bigger, but no less delightful. Added to the mix is Oscar Peterson’s virtuosity at the keys, and that imparts even more dimension and energy to the group. Mickey Roker is a drummer’s drummer, solid as a rock and steady-grooving. It’s the same concert, just with these two musicians added to make things even more energetic and dimensional.
As an homage to Stephane’s old Hot Club compatriot, Django Reinhardt, the album opens with a succulent version of Django’s quite famous “Nuages” – and the record would be worth it for this rendition alone. Joe Pass quite rightly does not try to fill Django’s shoes (who could?), rendering his own voice to this beloved standard as he opens the tune solo … beautiful stuff. Grappelli soon enters with Pedersen, Roker texturing the background with a delicately brushed snare – gentle comping chords from Oscar. As Grappelli finishes his bumblbee-like flight through (and all around) the melody, the bands fades and Oscar Peterson takes over with virtuosic ivory-tickling. There’s nothing like Oscar Petersen once he’s decided to own a tune, and “Nuages” is no exception. The band files back in, Grappelli doing the melodic honors until the final bar … and the audience just eats it up.
Whereas the first record, with just the trio, has the intimacy factor – this one has the energy factor. You can’t have one without the other, so do your best to find clean copies of both. You’ll have two precious records that you’ll drag out more often than you think!