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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alix Combelle Part 1...........

Alix Combelle

Alix Combelle (15 June 1912–2 March 1978) was a French swing jazz tenor saxophonist, clarinetist and bandleader, born in and performing in Paris for most of his life. He was well known on the Continental Jazz scene of Europe, active mostly in the 1930s and 1940s. He performed or featured in his bands such musicians as Arthur Briggs, Ray Ventura, Michel Warlop and Gregor et ses Gregoriens, among others. During the 1940s his popularity eased off somewhat, though he did perform with some American musicians at the time, such as Jonah Jones and Buck Clayton.

In the early European jazz history, especially the 1930s in France, the years of the foundation of the Hot Club du France and the birth of the famous record label Swing, you will often find the name of Alix Combelle mentioned in combination with other great musicians like Stéphane Grappelli (written as ‘Grappelly’ in those days), Django Reinhardt, Louis Vola and André Ekyan. This versatile musician played the tenor saxophone, the clarinet, was a vocalist, director of his orchestra, composer and arranger. The French nicknamed him: “Le premier négre du jazz, made in France” (= The first “black” French jazz musician).

Alix was born in Paris on the 15th of June, 1912. His father was an alto saxophone player in the band of the Garde Républicaine, the Republican Garde, so ….. like father, like son. His first instrument was the drum, but soon he started to play the tenor saxophone although he also studied the alto and baritone saxophone as well as the clarinet. During the second half of the 1920s he wanted to become an engineer, but, fascinated by the music played in the Parisian dance halls, he stopped his study and became a fulltime jazz player.

He was often to be found at the l’Abbaye de Théléme, one of the first Parisian venues where Jazz was played. The pioneers of jazz, like trumpet player Alex Renard, Pierre Allier and Philippe Brun, trombone player Guy Paquinet, alto saxophonist André Ekyan, violin player Stephane Grappelli, guitar player Roger Chaput and the bass players Roger Allier and Roger Grasset played often in that venue.

In 1931 Combelle became part of the Bruno Orchestra and a year later he was one of the members of the Krikor Kelekian band. Krikor Kelekian, better known as the founder of the famous French band: Grégor et ses Grégoriens. Enjoy one of the records by Gregor et ses Gregoriens, titled Doin’ The Raccoon featuring Alix Combelle as part of the saxophone section.

He played in that band for one year and performed in other bands like Le Jazz du Poste Parisien from Lucien Moreweck, “Le Jazz Patrick” directed by trombone player Guy Paquinet and the Orchestre de Michel Warlop, which recorded for the new Swing label.

Hugues Panassié and Charles Delaunay from the Hot Club de France asked Alix to accompany some US musicians, Freddie Johnson, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins and Bill Coleman to record as part of a quintet. In March 1935 Alix recorded two tunes with the new born Quintette du Hot Club de France, titled Crazy Rhythm and The Sheik of Araby.

In 1937 and 1938 Alix visited the States where he met Tommy Dorsey who invited him to join his band; it proofs his quality as a saxophone player.

Returned to France he became a member of the band of Ray Ventura; a great band that needs to be spotlighted later.

During the German occupation he was the director of one of the best French jazz bands, labelled as Le Jazz de Paris, featuring some skilled trumpet players like Aimé Barelli and Christian Bellest. In the early 1940s he founded his own band, which would be active until the 1950s and featured a lot of skilful musicians. After the liberation from the German he accompanied some Americans visiting Europe like Buck Clayton and Lionel Hampton.

In the 1950s and onwards Jazz is for Alix no longer the only music to make a living. During the 1960s and 1970s he composed and arranged music for films, radio and tv. His son Phillipe becomes a well known and active drummer in the Parisian jazz scene.

Alix Combelle passed away in Mantes, a place near Paris. He is, together with André Ekyan, one of the best saxophone players of the European jazz scene.

Alix Combelle was in the 1930s inspired by the white Chicagoan jazz style, but later he became fascinated by the black saxophone players Benny Carter, Chu Berry and especially Coleman Hawkins. He is one of the first European musicians to hold his own with the American musicians of those days. He is compared with musicians like Hawkins and Carter; a great compliment.

In the late 1930s his style of playing has been changed, due to the first Count Basie records with musicians like Herschel Evans and, of course, Lester Young.

After the war he tried to bring, like Don Byas, both Hawkins and Young together.
All these influences mentioned above gave him his own personal style of playing his instrument; lively, sometimes a bit rough, with short phrases, but always with fresh ideas.

Georg Lankester -

Soooo.....even though some of these selections are part of the Django Reinghardt lists that I have been posting, and you may already have: Alix Combelle...Part 1. Enjoy :)

Al's Idea-Alix Combelle's Hot Four 1937
Alexander's Ragtime Band-Alix Combelle Et Son Orchestre 1937
All Of Me-Quintette Du Hot Club De France 1940
Avalon-Alix Combelle Et Son Orchestre 1937
Ca s'fait pas-Alix Combelle Et Son Orchestre 1943
Cascades-Trio De Saxophones Alix Combelle w/ Django Reinhardt 1940
Crazy Rhythm-Alix Combelle Et Son Orchestre w/ Django Reinhardt 1935
Deux Pieds Gauches-Alix Combelle And His Swing Band w/ Django Reinhardt 1940
Don't Get Tired-Alix Combelle's Hot Four 1937
Exactly Like You-Alix Combelle Et Son Orchestre 1937
Fantasie Sur Une Danse Norvegienne De Grieg-Quintette Du Hot Club De France 1940
Fast, Slow, Medium Tempo-Alix Combelle And His Swing Band w/ Django Reinhardt 1940
Flots Bleus-Aimé Barelli et son orchestre 1941
Hang Over Blues-Alix Combelle Et Son Orchestre 1937
I Can't Give You Anything But Love-Alix Combelle And His Swing Band 1937
If I Had You-Alix Combelle's Hot Four 1937
Jonah's Wail-Jonah Jones & Alix Combelle's Sextett 1954
Joyeuse fumee (Holy Smoke)-Alix Combelle And His Swing Band w/ Django Reinhardt 1940
Jumpin' At The Woodside-Alix Combelle And His Swing Band w/ Django Reinhardt 1940
Les Yeux Noirs(Dark Eyes)-Quintette Du Hot Club De France 1940
Liebesfreud-Quintette Du Hot Club De France 1940
Mabel-Quintette Du Hot Club De France 1940
Nerves And Fever-Alix Combelle And His Swing Band w/ Django Reinhardt 1940
Nuages (version 2)-Quintette Du Hot Club De France 1940
Oiseaux Des Iles-Quintette Du Hot Club De France 1940
Onze heures vingt-Trio De Saxophones Alix Combelle w/ Django Reinhardt 1940

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