Saturday, April 11, 2015

André Ekyan (1907 – 1972) – A French Saxophone Player, Part 2 (1940s)

Georg Lankester, expert in pre-WW II French jazz history, continues in this entry the story of André Ekyans career, this time focusing on the war and post-war years – the 1940s.

First part of the story (1930s) is available following this link, here 

André Ekyan, a ‘sought after’ musician

In the first year of the war (1940) our alto-sax player formed a new group named “Swingtette” in which we find guitarist ‘Matlo’Ferret. This formation played frequently in the “Moulin Rouge” and moreover made various fine records for “Odéon”.

Due to the fact that the relationship between André and Django was quite good and their musical feelings also matched, a series of new recordings was organised in February. André’s fine sax playing, accompanied by Django, was now completed with guitarist Pierre Ferret and bass player Emmanuel Soudieux, also ‘masters of strings’.They recorded swinging versions of ‘Margie’ and ‘ Rosetta’, as well as ‘Sugar’ and ‘A pretty girl is like a melody’.Those records, supervised by Delaunay, were released by “Swing” (Sw 98 & 194).

André was also the leader of a small formation  called “Kit Cat” which performed in a luxary place at the Champs Elyssées, an illustration of his popularity.

Swing, Sw 127
One year later, in September 1941 two more records with the new Hot Club quintet followed viz. the titles ‘De nulle part’ (‘Out of Nowhere’) and the exciting ‘Hugaria’ in wich sometimes  influences of Hawkins in André’s playing are noticable.These two  tracks for “swing’were released as Sw 127

Outside Paris

Shortly afterwards Ekyan remained in Switzerland because he now joined the popular Ray Ventura orchestra. This French band which had firstly toured through the South of France, went to Switzerland in order to escape from th German occupation. At the end of 1941 Ventura even left Europe to settle in South America till the war was over.

Django Reinhardt, Andre Ekyan, Ralph Schecroun, Alf Masselier and Roger Paraboschi in Rome (1950)
Back in France, André now became the leader of a formation in Baulieu, where he would remain till 1950 when Django invited him to join his new quintet which was going to play in  Italy. In April and May of that particular year this quintet performed in Rome where also several recordings were made. 

 Note: in  those  sessions André was alternating alto-sax with clarinet and….these  were historical sessions because it was the last time that  the two men played together. Django died in May 1953 !

In the Fifties, André performed often in ‘Maxim’s”, however, the music performed there  gradually had a somewhat lower level. Therefore he decided to travel through Europe and so it happened.

André Ekyan's orchestra at 'Maxim's'
He then played in a lot of  countries, but often in Spain. Unfortunately it was in the town of Alicante that he died on 9 August 1972 because of a tragic traffic accident.

André Ekyan (1907-1972)

Considering André Ekyan’s impressive activities and successes one can certainly speak of an important jazz musician, not only for France, but in general since he also played with a lot of great American jazzmen. 

Worthwhile to mention is that he produced a soft tone on clarinet which created a sometimes  melancholy atmosphere, fitting in so well with a musician like e.g. Django Reinhardt. In his alto-sax playing one can hear some influences from the Chicago jazz (Frank Trumbauer) and – later – from Benny Carter. Producing a warm tone, sometimes calm, in other moments excuberant and fast, he could inspire other jazz musicians. Because of his technique and creativity, this artist belongs to the best European saxophonists of last century.

Some recommended records: China Boy ‘French Hot Boys’(1932),Crazy Rhythm, ‘Coleman Hawkins All Stars (1937), Margie with Django Reinhardt (1940)

Georg Lankester

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