The Master of Jazz, Svend Asmussen Laid To Rest

By Ambili Sasidharan on Feb 15, 2017 01:25 AM EST

The music world mourned the death of Danish jazz violinist Svend Asmussen on February 7. He was 100. Considered as the master of the jazz world, Svend spent more than eight decades churning out masterpieces and collaborating with global musicians such as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, the Indian violinist L. Subramaniam and the bluegrass mandolinist David Grisman.

Born as Svend Harald Christian Asmussen to a grain merchant father in Copenhagen on Feb. 28, 1916, his love for music began at the age of five. After learning piano and violin, he innovated the art of fusing jazz with the violin. A report on Washington Post reported that Svend was heavily inspired by the recordings of American swing fiddler Joe Venuti. By mid-1930s, he was leading a small group of musicians at his hometown.

NewYork Times referred the jazz expert as "an ebullient performer" who stood out for his onstage singing and clowning as well as his playing. However, he rarely performed outside Europe except for the United States--where he performed with the Swedish vocalist Alice Babs and the Danish guitarist Ulrik Neumann. This is also mainly due to the world war outbreak and Nazi's occupation of Denmark. He was even arrested and jailed in Berlin during that time along with hundreds of Danes.

Among his great line up of works, two most celebrated recordings are "Duke Ellington's Jazz Violin Session," in collaboration with Stéphane Grappelli and Ray Nance, and "The Violin Summit," with Grappelli, Smith and Jean-Luc Ponty. In the mid-1950s, he led a group under the name Svend Asmussen and His Unmelancholy Danes.

Svend is survived by Ellen Bick Meier and three children from his marriage to Annegrethe Thomassen. More than a musician, he will be remembered as an entertainer who has already carved a niche place for himself. He was active on stage until 2010. We express our deepest condolence for the great man's departure.

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