Tribute to Alexis Gruss, circus legend and great music lover

Hommage à Alexis Gruss, légende du cirque et grand mélomane

A great figure in the equestrian circus, Alexis Gruss died on April 6 at the age of 79. Circus director, internationally recognized Master Squire, clown, aerialist, but also saxophonist, the artist has always put music at the center of his shows…

Circus & Music

Music plays an essential role in the Folies Gruss shows, always accompanied by a live orchestra. Clowns, aerialists, jugglers and equestrian artists are often musicians themselves. Because in the Gruss family, a passion for the circus is passed on, as well as a love of music.

“I have never been able to imagine a live show without live music. It's fragile, there is no guarantee! The musicians follow us and vice versa.” Alexis Gruss

Dédé, the father of Alexis Gruss, played the trumpet, saxophone and trombone. Saxophonist, Alexis had more than 7,000 vinyls in his collection, from Marcel Mule to Paul Desmond via Sidney Bechet, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. He formed a jazz band with his sons, Stephan on trumpet and Firmin on trombone, and his grandsons, Alexandre on guitar, Charles on drums, Louis on saxophone and Joseph on trumpet.


Gruss & SELMER families

The meeting between Alexis Gruss and SELMER dates back to the 1950s. At the time, his father – the clown Dédé Gruss – brought him to Place Dancourt to have his trumpet and soprano saxophone serviced.

The young artist's environment is therefore eminently musical. The Gruss family, circus artists since 1854, regularly organizes jams, inviting cousins, uncles, aunts, and other artists close to the family circle.

This is how the young Alexis - trained in circus arts from the age of seven by his family - began playing the trumpet, then the soprano saxophone, inspired by Sidney Bechet. He then discovered Paul Desmond and took up the alto, then the tenor, before developing a passion for Gerry Mulligan and buying a baritone saxophone. A lover of the instrument in all its forms, he completes his collection with bass and sopranino saxophones.

“We could not conceive of an artistic performance of White Clown without entering the stage with an alto, tenor or baritone or bass saxophone. I found that the bass saxophone went very well with the clown numbers because it is such an extraordinary instrument. Its volume, its sound…

We had a performance where the aerialist played the alto saxophone above his partner who played the soprano. At that time there were often musical instruments and especially saxophones in the acts.”

The multi-talented artist would have turned 80 on April 23. We had planned, with the complicity of the Gruss family, to dub him 'Selmer ambassador' on his birthday and to give him a bell engraved with his name. We send our warm thoughts to his family and his fellow circus artists. Long live the magic of Folies Gruss ♥

Find out more about the Folies Gruss shows