Django’s Clarinettists and Reedsmen
André Ekyan (clarinet, alto sax) – 1907-72
A significant jazz pioneer in France, he was a self-taught arranger, bandleader and jazz organizer at the centre of jazz development in France. He worked vigorously helping develop and promote jazz at clubs and cabaret venues, recordings, concerts and jam sessions. He established wide popularity in London and Paris in the early 30s, then recorded as a leader and sideman between 1935-46. He was an energetic and early jazz activist promoting concerts, jam sessions (called, “Des Boeufs” by the French).
Undoubtedly André Ekyan was one of the most original French jazz musicians of the 1930s, second only to Django. His mother was Hungarian, his father from Armenia. His official name was Echkyan. He was raised in France and took up the clarinet and saxophone as a child. A major talent, Ekyan was one of the most original jazz stylists of France. He was one of the very few saxists in Europe to develop his own style in the 1930s independently from the dominant Coleman Hawkin’s paradigm. Yet his sound was very much appreciated by Hawk and they recorded together in 1935 and ‘37. As an alto saxophone player Ekyan must have been influenced by the two most important early stylists of the instrument: Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter, the latter was in Europe several years in the mid-1930s.
At the end of 1940 he began his career as a conductor and played Trumpet, Saxophone and Clarinet. On October 22, 1940 he recorded under the label “swing” Winter Serenade, The Sheik, Noel’s Blues, Margie, Bijou with (tp), Max Blanc (cl, as), Alix Combelle (ts), Noël Chiboust (ts, dir), Raymond Wraskoff (p), Django Reinhardt (g), Francis Luca (b), Pierre Fouad (d).
Excellent tenor sax solo by Noel and followed by a Harry James style trumpet solo of Aimé Barelli, Django takes a brief solo before the final ride out.
Bass and Drum breaks followed by Django’s extended solo, Marc Blanc’s clarinet and then Alix Combelle on Tenor Sax seems to lose his way and command is restored by Aimé Barelli’s Trumpet and then a more competent solo is delivered by Noël Chiboust on Tenor Sax to complete the array.
Clarinettist and saxophonist is engaged in the quintet the Hot Club of France, where he replaces Stephane Grappelli. He plays jazz and swing, with Pierre Fouad – Algerian Drummer, Robert Mavounzy Charley Bazin, Django Reinhardt and jazz accordionist Gus Viseur.
The Quintet of the Hot Club of France recorded December 13, 1940 with Hubert Rostaing (cl), Django Reinhardt, Joseph Reinhardt (g), Alix Combelle (cl), Tony Rovira (b), Pierre Fouad (d) the huge success Nuages
b : June 15, 1912 in Paris (France)
d : March 2, 1978 in Mantes (France)
Tenor sax jazz french player during 1930s and ‘40s, Combelle was originally a drummer. He has worked with all the who’s-who of pre-world war French jazz musicians, but went occasionally in US in the ’30s and has recorded for expatriate US musicians in Paris during the ’50s and ’60s.