A century on and the evolution of jazz continues to unfold. There will always be traditionalists and there will always be those who desire to walk the coals to find the next level of blowing. The intention of these weekly posts will not be to hold your hand through the chronology of jazz history, but to give you an idea of the many directions you can choose to go in the exploration of the myriad, complex, and curious forms that fall under the moniker of jazz.
The violin is not usually the first instrument that comes to mind when thinking about string solos in jazz. The guitar seems to have dominated, nearly from the outset—excepting banjo players—in the melodic stringed instrument soloing department, rather than the symphonic stalwart. Yet, there have been many fine, hot and swinging violinists throughout the history of jazz.
Stuff Smith was tearing it up at the the top of the heap (along with Stéphane Grappelli and Joe Venuti) during the halcyon days of the swing era. Early on he was known to play a Stroh violin in an effort to be heard among the loudest instruments on the bandstand. He later became recognized as one of the first to play amplified violin in a concert setting and endorsed the National Dobro Companies "Vio-Lectric" model.
While not as technically advanced as some violinists, Smith's style was raw and visceral, not unlike many of the great country-blues players of the same era. According to Joel Smirnoff in this fine article, “His point was not to be sophisticated; his point was to swing as hard as possible, and it’s infectious.”