Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Stephane Grappelli, the jazz violinist now 70, is playing as if age adds nothing but patina to art. At the Cellar Door Sunday night, the French-Italian musician coaxed nuances out of old standards the way great painters wield a brush to turn a tree into an esthetic experience.
Grappelli is playing with an all-acoustic trio, and whn they swing through tunes like "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and "Pennies From Heaven," it's about as close as you can get to bellying up to a Paris bar next to Gershwin or Hemingway. The music positively reeks of classy sentimentality - the kind of sentimentality that still meks fans swoon when Bogart tells Dooley Wilson to play it again.
Like Bogart, Grappelli transforms mediocre material into a swank act. When he moves into "As Time Goes By," there's a precise little pizzicato that's tripled by bass and guitar. On "Night and Day" he rolls off sliding harmonics that would have the most classically trained virtuoso dehydrated with envy.
Of course, Grappelli has picked the right musicians to work with him. Guitarist Diz Disly provides the kind of plucky rhythms that Grappelli's old partner Django Reinhardt used to dish out in the '30s and '40s, while John Etheridge adds amazingly rapid fills on second guitar. Brian Torff plays the stand-up bass dexterously enough to make it seem like a mandolin.
This is the kind of dreamy music that doesn't happen regularly, and it's available through Wednesday night at the Georgetown club.