Violinist Eddie South may not be a household name, but among his peers, he was a giant of the jazz world. The former classical music prodigy whose distinctive style was the inspiration for a new tribute album by Violinjazz.
The music of Eddie South, as interpreted by San Francisco-based quartet Violinjazz, ranged from classical masterpieces to Hungarian folk songs. But he was best-known for his elegant solos of jazz and swing standards.
Eddie South was born in the city of Louisiana, Missouri in 1904. His budding prospects as a classical violinist led to formal training at the Chicago Musical College, as well as conservatories in Hungary, Paris and New York. But, in the 1920s, with limited opportunities for black musicians hoping to enter the classical music world, Eddie South turned to playing jazz.
He began his career with some of Chicago's top jazz and vaudeville orchestras, working under bandleaders Charles Elgar, Jimmy Wade and Erskine Tate. Eddie was billed as "The Dark Angel of the Violin," a name originated by bandleader Paul Whiteman during a radio show. Tours to Europe sparked his interest in traditional Hungarian folk tunes and gypsy melodies, which he skillfully incorporated into his own jazz style.
One of Eddie's most famous pieces was "Eddie's Blues," a tune he first recorded in 1937 with renowned guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Eddie became the leader of his own groups, including Eddie South and his Alabamians, named after the Alabam Club in Chicago. But, over the years, as he supplemented his nightclub work with appearances on radio and television, commercial success continued to elude him. He died at age 57 in Chicago in 1962.
Paying tribute to Eddie on "The Music Of Eddie South" are Violinjazz members Jeremy Cohen on violin, pianist Larry Dunlap, bassist Jim Kerwin and guitarist Dix Bruce. They're joined by drummer Harold Jones on the track "Mad Monk."