Grappling with Grappelli

Contemporary jazz violin pedagogy and the legacy of gypsy jazz


  • Tom Sykes University of Salford
  • Ari Poutiainen University of Helsinki



jazz violin, gypsy jazz, French jazz, jazz education, Stephane Grappelli


The violin has been played in jazz from the beginning of the music's history, and yet ithas, until relatively recently, been somewhat neglected as a significant jazz instrumentin terms of both performance and education. One style of jazz in which the violin is significantis so-called 'gypsy jazz', which originated with the formation of Le Quintette duHot-club de France in the early 1930s featuring gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt andviolinist Stéphane Grappelli. The success of this group led to Grappelli being consideredcentral to jazz violin and gypsy jazz, and the gypsy jazz style-initially a French phenomenon-being equated with jazz violin as the everyday aesthetic of jazz violin.The number of successful French jazz violinists following Grappelli (including Jean-LucPonty and Didier Lockwood) has led to the idea of a 'French school' of jazz violin, and anumber of recently published jazz violin tutor books base their approach on the premisethat the Grappelli swing style is central to jazz violin, despite many contemporaryjazz violinists choosing to play in more modern styles. The authors critically considerthe existence of a 'French school' of jazz violin and whether teaching the Grappelli styleis an effective approach to jazz violin pedagogy.

Author Biographies

Tom Sykes, University of Salford

Dr Tom Sykes received his undergraduate jazz degree at Leeds College of Music,and his PhD at the University of Salford. He teaches at the City of Liverpool College andthe University of Salford and is an active jazz performer in the north of England.

Ari Poutiainen, University of Helsinki

Dr Ari Poutiainen, Reader of Musicology, also works as a Senior Lecturer in MusicEducation at the University of Helsinki (Finland). His research focus has recently beenon improvisation, violin technique, jazz history and pedagogy. He is also an establishedjazz violinist, composer and educator.   


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How to Cite

Sykes, T., & Poutiainen, A. (2020). Grappling with Grappelli: Contemporary jazz violin pedagogy and the legacy of gypsy jazz. Jazz Research Journal, 13(1-2), 151–177.