One of the top violinists of the pre-bop era, Eddie South was a brilliant technician who, were it not for the universal racism of the time, would probably have been a top classical violinist. A child prodigy, South graduated from the Chicago Music College. Since classical positions were not open to black violinists in the 1920s, South learned to play jazz (helped out by Darnell Howard). In the early to mid-'20s, he worked in Chicago with Jimmy Wade's Syncopators, Charles Elgar, and Erskine Tate. South's 1928 visit to Europe (where he studied at the Paris Conservatoire) made a deep impression on the violinist, particularly his visit to Budapest; later on, he would often utilize gypsy melodies as a basis for jazz improvising. In 1931, South returned to Chicago, where his regular band included the young bassist Milt Hinton. In 1937, he visited Paris and had the opportunity to record with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. However, South never really had a major breakthrough commercially in his career. He did work on radio and television, but spent most of his life in relative obscurity, gigging in New York, Los Angeles, and especially Chicago. Eddie South's early recordings (covering 1927-1941) have been reissued on a pair of Classics CDs. In later years he recorded for Chess and Mercury, and also made a final set released by Trip. ~ Scott Yanow
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