Willy Ekoué

Willy was born on 2 February 1971 in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. At the age of 10, his family moves to Sedan, in the Ardennes and he begins his first music lesson on the trumpet. It was in 1989 that Willy turned to the saxophone which then became his favorite instrument.

In 1998 Willy gets a scholarship to go to the prestigious jazz school, CIM, in Paris. He obtains a first soloist price for saxophone. There he is taught by saxophonists Bernard DUPLEIX and Xavier COBO. He joins the school’s big band which is led by the famous trumpeter Ernesto Tito PUNENTES. At the school, Willy encounters two artists from the Reunion Island, who will become famous in the World Reunionese scene, Moise ICHANA, bass guitarist (his group is called Ichana Moise Quintet, Reunion Jazz and Maloya) and Patrick PERSEE, singer and bass player. With them Willy will record his third album, Faith, in 2000 under the label Bebet Production-Reunion Island. He will tour France with these artists.

During his career he also meets jazz artist, Fanny WERNER, with whom he works in the Fanny Werner Quintet, training for almost 2 years.

From 2002 to 2004 Willy continues his training in the Paris Jazz School under Arpeij teacher Michel GOLDBERG. He obtains the first Price of arrangement in 2014.

In 2004, he participates in the 2nd Festival Generations BRASSENS in Crespières where he plays with Fanny Werner Quintet training with guest saxophonist Marcel ZANINI.

In 2005, he plays with his trio (Saxophone, bass and drums) for the opening of the painter Jean-Marc Brunet’s gallery in Reims.

In 2005 he obtains a 2 year scholarship to study School of Jazz EDIM which allows him to expand his knowledge. Then follow piano lessons and workshops with Laurent COQ. He also plays in the Tentet led by guitarist Eric SCHULTZ. He obtains his diploma the FNEIJMA (Professional degree).

In EDIM, he meets Maïwenn LE GUYADER, who will become his wife, and with whom he forms a classical music duet. They record their first album under the name of Sonates en Duo. This unusual alliance between a soprano saxophone and a harp, demands arrangements especially for this work. They record Debussy, Spohr, Handel and Bach. They also decide to combine theur music with sculpture with the help of the artist Bernard THIMONNIER. Through their works, the music of Sonates en Duo reflects sound colors and rhythms.

They tour France for 2 years, giving a series of concerts, mostly in chapels and cathedrals, where the acoustics fit perfectly to their music.

In 2008, they signed a contract with the prestigious brand of crystal Swarovski, in France, giving concerts for the launch of their new collection to their exclusive clients.

“Sonates en Duo” has played in several private events: Americans celebrating their weddings in France (At the Rodin museum in Paris, the Expiatory Chapel in Paris, Castles in Normandy, the George V Palace Hotel in Paris, the American Church in Paris….), for corporate events (Thermor Company Batimat for the annual congress of architects of France), private weddings, inaugurations (The Matisse museum in Cateau-Cambresis).

In 2006 Willy records the music for the inauguration of the Tramway in Paris.

In 2007 Willy puts together CIRCUS BAOBAB, which becomes a reference in the world of contemporary African circus. Circus Baobab is the first aerial acrobatics circus that incorporates African music. Acrobatics, traditional dance and contemporary Guinea story telling from Africa and stories of Mandingo. He also participates in the creation of a third company called Nimba. This show is a journey to the heart of Guinea, revealing the path an African woman goes through in search of her identity. She discovers in particular, different relationships towards men. Her confrontation with various figures that symbolize the spirit of nature, the exploring of the forbidden land… This musical creation is put on by 5 musicians. Kora and guitar Abdoulaye KOUYATE, balafon Sory DIABATE, percussions Alhassane CAMARA, bass Jean-Alain HOHY and Willy EKOUE on soprano saxophone and tenor. Associate director Adama TRAORE (Mali), associate choreographer Patrick ACOGNY in collaboration with Germaine ACOGNY (Senegal), set design: Elisabeth DALLIER (France) assisted by Mory DIALLO (Guinea) and producer Isabelle SAGE (France).

They set up residence for a month in the Theatre de la Merise in Trappes in order to produce this piece and give 3 performances there where the final preparation took place.

Willy tours the world and all of France with this show.

Some key dates:
- 3rd edition of the Museum Night at the Quai Branly in 2007
- Tour of Conakry Guinea in 2008
- 17th edition of the festival Charivarue in Normandy in 2008
- 23rd edition of the Crusaders Worlds Festival Murat in 2008
- At the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris in 2008
- Iberamericano Festival in Bogota, Colombia (one month tour) in 2008
- World Fair in Zaragoza in Spain in 2008

After its success, the musicians of the Circus Baobab troupe decided to an Afro Jazz Guinea formation, taking a major part of the music from the Nimba orchestra, directed and produced by Isabelle SAGE. With this new project they play in the Sfinks festival in Belgium, Complet’Mandingue festival in Saint-Brieux, at Ingenious Africa festival in Foix, several dates in Marseilles in Paradox, the Kaloum…

In 2011, Willy is the saxophonist in the “Twinkel Quintet” group; an electro-acoustic experimental jazz band directed and created by harpist Maïwenn EKOUE, with singer Anissa BENSALAH, double-bass Guillaume DUVIGNEAU and drummer Julien VERDIER. Twinkel Quintet explores an unlimited repertory where freedom of expression and experimentation are revealed through Maïwenn compositions and arrangements of jazz standards, original acoustic browsing with stamps and appliances. The Twinkel Quintet represents, above all, a desire to access and develop a musical project based on her instrument, the harp, - an instrument that is little known in this kind of music and which provides great scope for creativity. Indeed, the music of the Twinkel Quintet is music that is at the crossroads of jazz and contemporary music, full of moods and colors that awaken and challenge our curiosity. Twinkel Quintet has performed in famous Parisian Jazz Clubs including the Sunset-Sunside, 'Jazz pas grave' (Jazz festival), in Gargilesse and Maubeuge Harp festivals, for the General Council of the Doubs and in Parisian venues such as the Golden Age, aux lumières, the Bellevilloise, the Gibus, the Entrepôt, the Manufacture 111, the Petit Bain...

In the same year, Willy integrates a brass section of Guinean singer and musician BA CISSOKO combining modernism and Mandingo tradition.

For the release of the last album “Nimissa” they set up in Cape Town in Aulnay-sous-Bois where they give a performance.

Tours organized throughout France and abroad including many festivals:

  • Festival “au fil des voix” in Alhambra https://youtu.be/sfXsrvKlu30

  • Choral Festival on the national stage Seals to Gemini

  • Babel Med Festival, the Kaloum, the Court Julien, the Paradox in Marseille

  • Coffee Connection in Toulouse

  • The Rust in Montpellier

  • Kuzca Festival in the Var

  • Concerts in Château Arnoux, in Bourgoin Jallieu, Ravoir to Chambery, in Isle d’Abeau, in Salon de Provence

  • Festival les Suds in Arles

  • Images and Words Festival of Africa in Privas

  • In Amsterdam and Venlo in the Netherlands

  • In Bochum and Wolfenbüttel in Germany

  • Gnawa Festival in Algiers in Algeria

  • Mama Africa Festival in Italy

  • Jazz Festival in Umea in Sweden

  • Enter Festival in Poznan, Poland

     

     

    In 2013, Willy joined the group Thomas Guei with the Enchanted Hands, mixing sounds from Ivory Coast and West Africa. They will perform in Africa Houses Festival at Maison Laffite https://youtu.be/BbuT5SWQx9o

In 2014, Willy recorded of the album WALI with the famous balafon player from Guinea Sory DIABATE.

In 2014, some key dates with the group BA CISSOKO and his new formation in quintet:

  • In Caf’Muz in Colombes

  • Participation the Music Festival Jam ‘in Jette in Brussels

  • AFROLATINO Festival in Bree in Belgium
  • La Meson in Marseille

  • Carceres in Spain

  • Latté in Marseille

  • Kalloum in Marseille

  • Conakry Tour in Guinea

  • Festival Nuits Metis in Miramas

     

In 2015, some key dates with the group BA CISSOKO and preparation of the new album

  • Le Jam in Marseille

  • Festival Musique du Monde in Ventspils in Estonia

  • Sun Art in Marseille

  • Festival Tres Culturas in Valencia in Spain

  • Festival International of Music in Benin

  • Nomad Café in Marseille

     

In 2015, the group BA CISSOKO releases their new album called “Djeli”. Some key dates in Theatre La Forge in Avignon.

Djeli Tour 2016 : 

  •  Studio de l’Ermitage  Paris 

  • Espace Julien Marseille

  • Festival Musiques Métisses Angoulème

  • Bordeaux Guinguette chez Alriq

  • Festival Maitisse

  • Fête de la Musique Colombes

  • Festival Nuits Métis

  • Openeye Festival – Oberlunkhofen

  • Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône  (Trio)

  • Festival des Mangeurs de Lunes
  • Festival Au pré de mon âne

  • Moods Zurich

  • Africampulse  Bordeaux

  • La Centrifugeuse Pau

From 2015 to 2016, many concerts with his classical formation “Sonates en Duo”:

  • Chapelle Expiatoire in Paris in France

  • American Church in Paris in France

  • Mona Bismark American Center in Paris in France

  • Castle of Esclimont in France

  • Castle of Reignac in Indre in France

  • Castle in Dordogne in France

  • Town Hall in Paris in France

  • Castle of La Bourdaisière in Montlouis-sur-Loire in France…

From 2014 to 2016, tour with MaaSanké Band created by the harpist Maïwenn Ekoué. (Saxophone, electric harp, balafon)

  • CMG in Paris in France

  • Baiser Salé in Paris in France

  • Musical center FGO Barbara in Paris in France

  • Etoile du Nord in Paris in France

  • Periscope in Lyon in France

  • Castle of sans soucis in Lyon in France

  • Le caveau les Lyonnais in Lyon in France

  • Théâtre de la Mackellerie in Roubaix in France

  • Atelier culture in Dunkerque in France

  • Cultural Center in Conakry in Guinea

 

In June and July of 2016, Willy was the saxophonist for the recording of an album of the percussionist Alhassane CAMARA, better known as DARTAGNAN. This talented musician from Guinea has created an album that blends traditional West African music with a more modern, contemporary kind of music. The album will be released in 2017.

In June 2016, he became part of the creation of a project conceived and written by the Ivoirian dancer-choreographer Papson SYLLA, a show based on the harp, and of which the title and theme are ‘We Are All Guilty’. This project, currently in progress, will bring the whole company of performers together in August 2016, to work together on the creation of this show, and to go into rehearsals for it.

 

In March, 2017, he got an artist Visa the O-1. He settles in Los Angeles with Maïwenn. They give many concerts with Sonates en Duo. He also plays with Adaawe and Dez the Pharaon Band. He teaches the Saxophone at the French Conservatory of Music in Beverly Hills.

Festival Touches de Jazz in Beynes - France