Film: 2868

Music | 1940 | Sound | B/W


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An excerpt from a short film of the French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli playing with four young British jazz musicians, including the blind pianist George Shearing at an early stage in his career, who bear the influence of the new 'bebop' style of jazz then emerging from New York.

The image of Stephane Grappelli (SG) playing, in white tuxedo, appears slightly before the music begins; an English announcer explains that we are hearing 'The Stephane Blues' (in fact, the title of the composition that he is playing). As he introduces SG as 'one of the greatest modern exponents of swing music', a modernist kaleidoscope appears, incorporating musical notes and scrolls.

The announcer introduces a composition written by SG on his first visit to London before the war, 'Piccadilly Stomp', as we see the whole group: SG stands to the foreground, the drummer Ray Ellington (RE), whose Quartet would later be heard regularly on The Goon Show, behind him on the right of the screen, and moving leftwards, the Jamaican-born double bass player Coleridge Goode (CG), the seated guitarist Dave Goldberg (DG), and at the far left the pianist George Shearing (GS).

GS takes the first solo. DG and CG look on with evident pleasure. A close-up of GS again. RE mouths and mumbles along to the piano solo, as he uses his brushes on the drums. SG looks over his shoulder as GS finishes his solo, then turns and contributes his own solo, with GS still visible in the background. DG and RE look on with delight. A view of the whole group again, as SG finishes his solo, turns round and DG takes over the improvisation. A close-up of DG, with CG smiling in the background. RE again, pouting and singing along to the solo. DG continues with his solo, as CG glances across at RE to his left and then back to DG: there is a palpable rapport between the musicians. As the guitar solo is heard finishing, we see RE raise his brushes momentarily in the air, then continue to play, as the group return to the chorus. A close-up of SG, with GS blurred in the background. A view of the whole group, excluding the pianist at first, before the camera moves back to include him. As the tune ends, the focus is on RE, who raises his brushes before a concluding roll.

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