Svend Asmussen (born 28 February 1916 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is a jazz violinist from Denmark, known as "The Fiddling Viking". Asmussen grew up in a musical family, starting violin lessons at age 7. At age 16 he first heard recordings by jazz violin great Joe Venuti and began to emulate his style. He started working professionally as a violinist, vibraphonist, and singer at age 17, leaving his formal training behind for good. Early in his career he worked in Denmark and on cruise ships with artists such as Josephine Baker and Fats Waller. Asmussen later was greatly influenced by Stuff Smith, whom he met in Denmark. Asmussen played with Valdemar Eiberg and Kjeld Bonfils during World War II, during which time jazz had moved to the underground and served as a form of political protest. In the late 1950s, Asmussen formed the trio Swe-Danes with singer Alice Babs and guitarist Ulrik Neumann. The group became very popular in Scandinavia for their music hall style entertainment and also toured the United States. Asmussen also worked with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and Duke Ellington. Asmussen was invited by Ellington to play on his Jazz Violin Session recording in 1963 with Stéphane Grappelli and Ray Nance.
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Storyville is now presenting previously unreleased material from world famous jazz violinist Svend Asmussen. ‘Embraceable’ was recorded in Paris 1985 and now 30 years later Asmussen has found this recording in his home and is now released on the occasion of his 99th birthday the 28th of February.
I had never thought that this September Parisian night would be released and scrutinized, but honestly I think it is the best music I’ve ever recorded
!” said Asmussen when he was interviewed about the new release.
In a tiny club in Paris with 26 guests he played a set with ’Singin’ in the Rain’ as his first tune. He played with three musicians he had never played with before and there was no rehearsal, only a few notes scribbled down. Just as they were about to play the radio man casually told them the concert would be broadcasted live on French radio and that Asmussen should present the set in French. This performance turned into Asmussen’s favourite recording as he enjoys the atmosphere and the spontaneity of this live recording.
Asmussen's playing is firmly based in the pre-bebop jazz tradition but, unlike some players of his generation, his personal style didn't stop developing. [...] For never having played together before, incidentally, this foursome has remarkable drive and unity og purpose. It is magnificent this recording - originally done for radio broadcast - finally sees the light of day in CD form
(The New York Jazz Record, issue 166, p. 31. February 2016)