Svend Harald Christian Asmussen (born 28 February 1916 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is a jazz violinist from Denmark, known as "The Fiddling Viking". An institution in danish jazz and an icon of staying power Asmussen has been a recording artist for 8 decades and is still active.
Asmussen started playing violin at age seven, got his professional debut in 1933 and made his first recording as a leader in 1935. At first the studied to become a dentist when not playing gigs, but from 1937 he became full-time musician, playing with visiting stars as Josephine Baker, Fats Waller and The Mills Brothers. He started gaining a reputation in both London, Paris and Berlin but the outbreak of war halted planned tours. Due to the nazi's hate of jazz music it was used as a political protest in occupied Denmark (and elsewhere) and Asmussen got arrested.
In 1945 he formed a new sextet and started touring Europe as a jazz artist, while still making pop music for films, radio and TV. In the late 1950s, Asmussen formed the trio Swe-Danes with singer Alice Babs and guitarist Ulrik Neumann. The group became very popular in Scandinavia for their music hall style entertainment and also toured the United States. He reunited with Babs off and on, touring Brazil with her '74.
Strict immigration laws kept Asmussen from touring the US andhence he has stayed little known stateside. He did, over the years, record with Lionel Hampton, John Lewis, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Toots Thielemans. In 1966, Asmussen appeared alongside Grappelli, Stuff Smith, and Jean-Luc Ponty in a jazz Violin Summit in Switzerland that was issued as a live recording. He made an appearance at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival, which included a celebrated violin summit with him, Ray Nance and Jean-Luc Ponty. When a dozen or more american jazz artist started moving to Copenhagen he formed groups with Ed Thigpen, Kenny Drew.
Since the mid-1990s Asmussen has led, performed and recorded with his own quartet featuring topnotch Danish musicians. In later years Svend Asmussen has both played live and recorded with guitarist Jacob Fischer and Aage Tanggaard. At 98 Asmussen is still fiddling.
Asmussen's collection of jazz music, photographs, posters and other material is held in the jazz collections at the University Library of Southern Denmark. Asmussen's son, Claus Asmussen, is a well-known guitar player in Denmark, and a former member of the band Shu-Bi-Dua. (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia & discogs.com)