The violin in jazz history


The history of jazz also includes the violin!


This week, I had a specific request from a subscriber asking me to tell the history of the violin in jazz … A big job! that I did not do … Following that, I remembered a violinist of my acquaintance who has done a lot of work on the subject: Perrine Missemer. So I contacted her, and she immediately gave me the green light to share with you her work which bears this title: “THE VIOLIN IN THE HISTORY OF JAZZ.” I congratulate her on this great acheivement, and thank her for allowing me to share it with you!

In 2018, as part of her DEM jazz, she spent several months creating this document, which is quite unique to my knowledge! It deals with the origins of jazz violin, blues, country, bluegrass, then swing, gypsy jazz, be bop, up to all current jazz (free, contemporary, jazz rock, but also fusion, Latin, and many others). She cites the violinists of reference for each style, with lots of links to youtube videos to be able to listen to them! I also admit to being very flattered to be cited in her work among current violinists …


Perrine Missemer, a multi-talented violinist


The author of the document “THE VIOLIN IN THE HISTORY OF JAZZ” is a violinist composer who excels in jazz and Irish music! I discovered her videos quite recently on Instagram, since I started doing my mini-tutorials … and she really blew me away in the Irish style, which I know very little about!

Perrine is a French violinist based in Lyon, of classical training, then jazz and Irish music. If you want to take violin lessons in Lyon, know that she gives private lessons in all these styles! Here is a link to her artist website:, as well as to her facebook page

I have also just discovered her live EP with her compositions within her jazz quartet. I loved her compositions and her playing! She has subtly and effectively incorporated her influences from Irish music and classical music into a jazz universe. A real discovery thanks to all this! Here are some listening links:

– on Deezer:

– on Spotify:

Do not hesitate to contact her from me, whether for violin lessons or to give her a feedback on this historical work that she devoted several months to. I think she would be very touched. You can contact her directly by email at


The introduction to her work on the history of the jazz violin


On this page, I will preview the introduction to her thesis, which includes a definition of jazz, and the question “Why the violin?” I also added the first paragraph on the origins of the violin in jazz, then if you are interested in the following, you can download the complete PDF “THE VIOLIN IN THE HISTORY OF JAZZ” at the bottom of page!


A definition of Jazz


Jazz is a mixture of very diverse musical trends. During its development, it has been able to integrate and generate many influences and lend itself to many musical styles, such as blues, rock, Latin music, hard rock, and so on. Jazz includes a wide variety of subtypes, like traditional, bebop, fusion, free-jazz, etc.

According to Travis Jackson, jazz can be defined in a more “open” way, saying that jazz (whether we speak of swing, fusion, or latin-jazz) is music that often includes qualities such as swing, improvisation, group interaction, the development of an individual voice as an artist, and which is open to various musical possibilities.

—Review of The Cambridge Companion to Jazz by Peter Elsdon, Frankfurter Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft (Frankfurt Review of Musicology), no. 6, 2003


Why the violin?


It is not the first instrument one thinks of when one mentions Jazz. Yet the violin is not only one of the most popular instruments in the classical field, it is also, on the European side, present in most popular music, from Ireland to the depths of the Slavic countries. We are interested here in the place occupied by the violin throughout the history of jazz. What violinists have accompanied (and sometimes inspired) movements in the history of jazz, and how the instrument is exploited: techniques, popular or marginal use …




1880. The violin, already present at the turn of the century in black string bands, made a timid debut in jazz history, since it was sometimes found in New Orleans Jazz orchestras. (Back in the days of the famous trumpeter Buddy Bolden.)

Given its low volume relative to instruments like trumpets and saxophones, the violin is not among the instruments widely used in jazz music. It could not fight in the early days of jazz against wind instruments borrowed from fanfares … It was difficult to establish the violin in jazz as a solo instrument. Jazz pioneers are, moreover, and above all, saxophone or the trumpet players, and only occasionally reveal their hidden talents …

Two currents come to nourish the river that is jazz: a black rural violin playing style resulting from the blues, and a rural white country violin heir to the popular traditions of Western Europe.