Jazz musician and variety singer Marcel Zanini dies at 99

“You want or you don’t want”: with his round glasses, his striped bob, his mustache, his tics and above all a good dose of self-mockery, Marcel Zanini had amused many young and old in the 1970s with this song adapted from a Brazilian hit.

He died at the age of 99 in a Paris hospital, his son, the writer Marc-Édouard Nabe (pseudonym of Alain Zannini), told AFP on Wednesday. “Jazz is my whole life. It is a passion, a disease. Jazz is better than being in love,” he told AFP in 2005.

Clarinetist and tenor saxophonist, he even moved to New York for four years in the 1950s to be closer to legendary musicians and frequent jazz clubs. During his stay in the United States, where he writes for the specialized magazine “Jazz Hot”, he meets Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and the one who impresses him the most, “Bird”. “Having seen Charlie Parker play is one of the biggest impressions of my life,” he said. “From the first notes, it touched you right in the guts”.

But more than the recognized jazzman, the general public retains the image of Marcel Zanini as this facetious little man à la Tati or Benny Hill, who burst onto radio and television in 1969. With a song adapted from a Brazilian title that he records in a quarter of an hour… “You want or you don’t want / You want, it’s good / If you don’t want, too bad / If you don’t want, I won’t a disease, ”he hums in front of a pair of black thigh-high boots.

VIDEO. “You want or you don’t want”, a hit recorded in 1969

If it does not bring him fortune – “question money, I really missed it” -, it gives him enormous notoriety. “And, in the end, oddly, it made me known as a jazz musician”.

Born in Istanbul on September 7, 1923 to a French father of Italian origin and a Greek mother, Marcel Zannini (with two “n’s” in his real surname) moved to Marseilles in 1930 with his family, modest. He quickly abandons school and does odd jobs: baker, carpenter, errand boy… And one day comes across a movie poster that shows Benny Goodman playing the clarinet. He goes to see the film and comes out captivated.

First records coming back from the United States

He was then 19 years old and also took up the clarinet. “The first time I blew into it, I played a note. She may have been wrong, but she was jazz,” he said with his legendary humor. At the end of the war, he joined the quintet of Léo Missir, who would later become artistic director at Barclay.

Before forming his own, after his American parenthesis, and “going up” to Paris. He recorded his first discs and played in the evenings in clubs on the left bank, of which he became a pillar. For decades after the success of “You want or you don’t want”, he continues to produce jazz albums, where he alternates covers and original compositions, and to perform in clubs. Sometimes accompanied on the guitar by his son Marc-Edouard Nabe, a writer who became sulphurous and exiled in Switzerland.

VIDEO. “After You’ve Gone” with Marcel Zanini and Marc-Edouard Nabe recorded in 2010

“I never gave up jazz. Every day, I listen to it and I play it, ”he confided to AFP.

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