The jazz musician, a little guy with a bob screwed on his head, with round glasses and a mustache resting on a broad smile, who triumphed with the tube You want or you don't want? in the late 1960s, died Wednesday, January 18, at age 99, in Paris.
Marcel Zanini was born on September 9, 1923 in Constantinople (Istanbul), to a Greek Orthodox mother from Turkey and a Marseille father of Neapolitan origins. His family left Turkey in 1930 and settled in Marseille. His love at first sight for jazz came when he was 19, in 1942, when he heard clarinetist Benny Goodman play in an American film. He learned the clarinet before being drafted into the youth camps, which he quickly fled and spent the war in a military orchestra in Uzès. After demobilization, he was hired in a nightclub in Marseille, the Saint James, where he played with a pianist and a drummer. From 1946, he toured with the orchestra of his friend Léo Missir.
At the end of August 1954, at the invitation of a friend from New York, Zanini left for the United States. As soon as he arrives, he goes to a famous jazz club, the Birdland. In New York, he rubbed shoulders with big names in jazz and even met Charlie Parker. But his preferences go to Louis Armstrong, he will say in an interview with Radio France in 2017: "He understood everything, he plays the notes exactly in their place and as a singer and as a trumpeter. " A model !
He also writes for the Jazz Hot magazine and works for a musical reed merchant. He plays in different clubs, especially in Brooklyn, but his salary of 13 dollars a week becomes insufficient. In 1958, he returned to Marseille with his wife, Suzanne, who gave birth to their son, Alain. Zanini sets up a new formation and resumes touring. With his orchestra "Les Challengers", he covers many jazz titles, translated into French, which he interprets.
“Later, in 1962, I met Eddie Barclay on the street. Our first 45-rpm, we recorded it in two hours at the studio on Avenue Hoche! he says. He is almost 40 years old and this is his first record entitled Oui, Oui. His career is launched and the tours are linked. He accompanies the singer Henri Salvador for a time. He also plays in Marseille clubs like Vamping.
" Do you want it or not "
After several productions, he finally knows the triumph with the tube Do you want or do not you want?. At the end of April 1969, he recorded, in a quarter of an hour for Barclay, this adaptation in French of a Brazilian hit song, whose lyrics were retouched but not the chorus. A million records are sold and this colorful character becomes immensely popular. The song will be covered by Brigitte Bardot.
This success allows him to continue to play especially in Parisian jazz clubs with his sextet. His son, the writer and guitarist Marc-Edouard Nabe, will sometimes accompany him in his shows. Drummer Sam Woodyard joined his band in the 1970s.
In 2008, at the age of 85, Marcel Zanini was released by his favorite record company, Frémeaux
Another facet of the character, the success of You want or you don't want? opened the doors of the cinema to him. After a few films that did not leave lasting memories, he played twice for Bertand Tavernier in Around midnight (1986), and Life and nothing else (1989).
Tireless, the artist also performed for more than thirty years at the Petit journal Saint-Michel club, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. He was still playing there at almost 96 years old…