Monday 21 January 2019

Obituary: Didier Lockwood

Virtuoso violinist whose music ranged from jazz to prog-rock and classical

VIRTUOSO: Didier Lockwood
VIRTUOSO: Didier Lockwood Newsdesk Newsdesk

Didier Lockwood, who has died aged 62, was a virtuoso violinist whose 40-year career embraced many kinds of music; they included jazz of various styles, rock, fusion and classical music.

He also composed orchestral works, including concertos for violin and piano, two operas and soundtracks for films, including Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar (1999).

Critics often complained that he spread his talents too widely, but his capacity always to surprise made him a great favourite with audiences.

Didier Lockwood was born on February 11, 1956 into a French-Scottish family in Calais, where his father taught the violin. He took up the instrument at the age of six and went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire.

He also picked up an early fondness for jazz from his elder brother, Francis, a pianist. He gave up formal study at 17 to join the progressive rock band Magma, with an amplifier attached to his violin.

In 1976, at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Lockwood's playing so impressed Stephane Grappelli, the doyen of jazz violin, that he was invited to join Grappelli on his next tour.

The spectacle of Lockwood, aged 20, playing alongside the 68-year-old Grappelli led to rumours that the one had been chosen as the other's successor. The Grappelli connection established Lockwood as a jazz musician in the public mind, and his first recording under his own name, New World (1979), was in the jazz idiom. The band he assembled for the occasion included leading players from Britain, Denmark and the US. It set the direction for most of his subsequent jazz work - an amalgam of post-bop, modal and fusion styles. He could, however, drop effortlessly into a perfect rendition of Grappelli's suave, 1930s romanticism when the mood took him.

During the 1980s and 1990s, when playing the electronically amplified violin, Lockwood developed a bizarre assemblage of sounds, which he called his "seagulls" (mouettes).

They became a popular feature of his concerts, although critics sometimes found them tedious. In recent years he returned mainly to the acoustic instrument.

In 1994 Lockwood moved to New York, where he stayed for two years and recorded one of his most admired albums, Storyboard (1996), with the organist Joey De Francesco and other US jazz notables. On one track he delivered one of his many surprises, by playing a perfectly acceptable solo on the alto saxophone.

On his return to France, in 1996, Lockwood introduced his Concerto for Electronic Violin, giving its first performance with the Orchestre National de Lille.

In 2001, Lockwood realised a long-held ambition by opening his own music school, the Centre des Musiques Didier Lockwood, at Dammarie-les-Lys, southeast of Paris. The key to its unconventional methods was the plural "Musiques" in its name.

The emphasis, he declared, would be on heard rather than written music, on improvisation and forms of music from outside the Western classical tradition.

The school gained full recognition by the ministry of culture and continues to flourish.

At the time of his death, following a heart attack, Lockwood's discography listed 35 albums and his agency estimated that he had given around 4,500 concerts. Among his immediate future plans was a concert of music by Django Reinhardt.

Didier Lockwood, who died on February 18, was married twice. His first wife was the singer Caroline Casadesus, with whom he devised a musical show, Jazz et la Diva.

After their divorce, he married Patricia Petibon, a coloratura soprano and noted exponent of French Baroque music, who survives him with three daughters from his first marriage.

© Telegraph

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top