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I Want to Be Happy

Wein's Newport All Stars


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Giuseppe "Joe" Venuti
(September 16th 1903 - August 14th 1978)


This footage of George Wein's "Newport All Stars" was filmed in France in 1969 with Ruby Braff cornet, Joe Venuti violin, Barney Kessel guitar, George Wein piano, Larry Ridley bass, and Don Lamond drums.

Joe Venuti is featured performing "I Want To Be Happy" composed by Vincent Youmans, with words by Irving Caesar. The song was originally written for the 1925 musical "No, No, Nanette". The legendary violinist incorporates some of his special techniques including loosening the hairs on his bow and inverting it to play all four strings simultaneously.

"Father of Jazz Violin", Joe Venuti is believed to have been born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1903 despite his later claims. He popularized the violin as a jazz instrument in addition to the string duet along with his childhood friend guitarist Eddie Lang.

Throughout the 1920's and early 1930's Venuti produced records in abundance, working with top draw musicians like Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Bing Crosby, the Boswell Sisters and many other important jazz figures. "Venuti & Lang" would serve as a primary influence to the instrumental interactions of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.

Following Eddie Lang's premature death in 1933, Venuti deeply affected by the tragedy went on a tour of Europe from which he didn't return until 1935. Composing most of his own arrangements the violinist formed his own big band but wound up being far less successful than he was as a soloist and the orchestra dissolved in 1943.

After a period of relative obscurity during the 1940s and '50's, Joe was 'rediscovered' in the late 1960s and established a musical relationship with tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims that was almost as fruitful as his previous collaboration with Lang. They produced a number of very exciting recordings in the mid 1970's; an appropriate coda to the violinist's career. But he wasn't done yet, in 1976 he recorded an album of duets with pianist Earl Hines titled "Hot Sonatas". Joe Venuti died in Seattle, Washington on August 14th 1978 at age seventy-five.

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