The only difference between this year's Stephane Grappelli concert at the Beverly Theatre and last year's or 1985's, is that he is now more than halfway through his 80th year.
Perhaps the voice was a little weaker Monday evening, but the technical finesse when he played remained unimpaired; he seemed to swing Django Reinhardt's "Daphne" more vigorously at 79 than he did at 78.
In general, though, almost nothing had changed. Toujours les memes chansons; toujours le meme trio. Yet if the repertoire and personnel remained unaltered, the impact is slightly impaired by overfamiliarity.
The guitarist Marc Fosset still strums his way along ingeniously and continues to save his slightly weird humming-and-singing routine for the second half. Jon Burr, a New York bassist, still plays "Blue Monk" as his specialty. Grappelli still moves over the piano toward the end of the show for a rambling, rhapsodic medley.
One is inclined to search for answers to irrelevant questions: Did Grappelli play sitting down last year? Wasn't it a better attendance last time? Yes to both. Such trivia aside, you have to remind yourself that this man has been playing nonpareil jazz violin since the days when there were only two other full-time jazz violinists in the world: Joe Venuti and Eddie South.
Still, might it not be advisable, granting the natural inclusion of Gershwin, Kern and Ellington, to throw in an occasional work by, say, Tadd Dameron or Charlie Parker? Even "Giant Steps"? It seems improbable that Grappelli's ears could not meet the harmonic challenge of John Coltrane's tune. By now "Chattanooga Choo Choo" with the train effects on guitar has worn a little thin.
You may also long for the days when the group carried two guitarists. The trio offers no tonal diversity; a second guitar could function in effect as a percussive undercurrent. After all, the Hot Club Quintet that vaulted Grappelli to fame had three guitars.
None of this matters, of course, when the master is on his own, as he was for two or three magic minutes when he ended "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" with a series of wonderful, whimsical cadenzas. Let us be thankful that this one remaining legend is still on the road, yet hopeful that he will expand his arsenal of standards to offer a little variety in what has become a somewhat too predictable routine.