Robert Pettinelli, saxophonist, was one of the pioneers of bebop in France and Europe. He played with the greatest jazz musicians, at a time when Marseille was a hotbed of the jazz scene. He died on Sunday, August 27 at the age of 97.
He was one of the first French musicians to play bebop in France. Robert Pettinelli was a saxophonist, and his discovery of Charlie Parker, shortly after the war, changed his life.
Recognized by his peers, in 1949 he won the Jazz Hot Cup for the best orchestra, with his bebop quintet, in which he played the alto saxophone. He himself won the Selmer award for best soloist.
At the time, Marseille, a port of passage for the whole world, was one of the hotspots of the jazz scene in France and Europe.« I saw Louis Armstrong in Marseille, I saw Ellington's big band, Parker, Dizzy Gillespie's big band in 1948, playing fantastic music, amidst the boos of the crowd, who were whistling like crazy. And the musicians believed that they were triumphing because in the United States, that's how you applaud, » Pettinelli recalled in a recent interview on TV5 Monde.
A pillar of Marseille jazz in the 1980s
The 1980s marked the golden age of jazz in the city of Marseille, with the opening of the Pelle-mêle club. Pettinelli was one of its pillars.
His daughter, Michèle, recalls the often-told anecdote by her father: « He played with all the musicians who played in the soundtrack of ‘Elevator to the Gallows', except Miles Davis, whom he never met, » Michèle Pettinelli recalls. Barney Wilen, René Urtreger, Pierre Michelot or Kenny Clarke are among the musicians with whom Robert Pettinelli shared the stage. But there were many others, such as Martial Solal, Henri Renaud, Jean-Louis Chautemps, or Don Byans, Ben Webster or Barney Willen, with whom he jammed.
« One day, I sold his saxophone mouthpieces on Leboncoin, I had specified that they had belonged to my father, » recalls Michèle Pettinelli. « They all sold in one day. The buyers told me, ‘when I tell my friends, they'll want to steal it from me!' It touched me. »
At 97 years old, Robert Pettinelli was one of the last witnesses of this century of jazz history in Marseille.