Svend Asmussen Day

February 28, 1916 – February 7, 2017

A tribute to the “Fiddling Viking”

Violinist Svend Asmussen was born on February 28, 1916, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Asmussen began playing violin when he was seven and, although he thought of becoming an artist, studying sculpting, he became a professional musician by 1933 shortly after he heard some recordings by jazz violinist Joe Venuti.

Asmussen was always a versatile performer, also playing vibes, singing, and doing comedy.

In addition to his own recordings and groups, he worked with Josephine Baker and Fats Waller in the 1930s.

He managed to continue playing jazz through the World War II. years, in the 1950s formed the popular Swe-Danes with singer Alice Babs and guitarist Ulrik Neumann, and worked along the way with Benny Goodman, John Lewis, Toots Thielemans, Lionel Hampton, Dave Grisman, and on a Jazz Violin Session album with Duke Ellington (being matched with Stephane Grappelli and Ray Nance).

Asmussen was not as well known in the U.S. as Venuti, but he held his own with the greats, recording Violin Summit with Grappelli, Stuff Smith, and Jean-Luc Ponty and staying active until his mid-90s; he passed away just three weeks before what would have been his 101st birthday.

In 1986, Svend Asmussen is featured playing “It Don’t Mean A Thing.”


Svend Asmussen, violin
Kenny Drew, piano
Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, bass
Ed Thigpen, drums

-Scott Yanow


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