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Jazz Music France Culture Obituary

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Tributes pour in after French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood dies, aged 62

Didier Lockwood in Paris, 31 May 2017 JOEL SAGET/AFP

French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood, a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion and "spiritual son" of Stéphane Grappelli, has died of a heart attack at the age of 62.

Lockwood's mother was an amateur artist and his father, whose British family had settled in the northern port of Calais at the end of the 20th century, was a teacher.

"Thanks to music, he saved lots of kids who might have ended up in jail," Didier Lockwood commented when recognising his debt to his parent.

President Emmanuel Macron salutes Lockwood's 'immense musical talent'

Music ran in the family - bassist Willy Lockwood was his father's cousin and Didier's brother, Francis, was a jazz pianist.

It was Francis introduced him to the art of improvisation when he was a boy and the pair were to record the album Lockwood Brothers together in 2009.

Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen hails Lockwood's creativity and work in education

Lockwood started performing in the progressive rock-jazz fusion band Magma in the 1970s and was known for his use of electric amplification and experimentation of different sounds on the electric violin.

But he also teamed up with Grappelli, who after working with guitarist Django Reinhardt went on to become a grand old man of jazz violin.

After seeing Lockwood play in Michel Colombier's big band, Grappelli invited him to join him on a European tour and was to recognise the younger man as his "spiritual son".

"That was the start of my career, the launchpad that got me into the world of popular jazz," Lockwood told Radio France in 2008.

Didier Lockwood live at the Marciac Jazz festival

Other inspirations included another French jazz-rock violinist, Jean-Luc Ponty, and American performers Albert Ayler, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

Lockwood played with the crême de la crême of the French jazz world - drummers Daniel Humair and Aldo Romano, bassist Henri Texier and cellist Jean-Charles Capon - also going to perform and record in the US, where he played with the Marsalis brothers.

Violinist Renaud Capuçon hails 'an exceptional musician, a man of rare qualities'

He married into the classical music world - twice and both times to sopranos, the first Caroline Casadesus, the second Patricia Petitbon.

He performed with Casadesus in the show TheSoprano and the Diva in 2006 and recorded an album with Petitbon, crossing genres on many other occasions in performances with artistes from India, Syria, Mali, Colombia and many other countries.

Lockwood was nothing if not prolific - he performed in nearly 4,500 concerts, made 35 recordings, wrote two operas, a concerto for piano and orchestra, two concertos for violin, lyrical works and music for films and cartoons.

Following his father's pedagogical example, he set up the Didier Lockwood Music Centre, which taught improvisation according to a jazz violin method he developed, in a town south of Paris in 2001.

His last album, Open Doors, came out in January.

His last stage appearance was on Saturday night with Moldova-born violinist Sanya Kroitor at the Paris jazz venue Bal Blomet.

Didier Lockwood, a life in dates
  • 11 February 1956: Born in Calais to a father of British origin and French mother;
  • 1969: Joins Calais theatre orchestra;
  • 1972: Wins prize at Calais conservatoire;
  • 1974: Joins jazz-rock group Magma;
  • 1975: Magma issues album Théatre du Taur Concert;
  • 1976: Meets Stéphane Grapelli, who invites him to go on tour with him;
  • 1985: Wins Vctoire de la Musique prize;
  • 1995: Marries soprano Caroline Casadesus, with whom he has a daughter, Mathilde;
  • 2000: Records tribute album to Stéphane Grapelli;
  • 2001: Opens Centre des musiques Didier-Lockwood at Dammarie-les-Lys;
  • 2002: Wins French music Sacem prize;
  • 2003: Awarded Légion d'honneur;
  • 2005: Named vice-president of government's cultural education committee;
  • 2006: Performs show Jazz and the Diva with Caroline Casadesus;
  • 2015: Marries soprano Patricia Petitbon;
  • 18 February 2018: Dies in Paris from a hear attack.