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Daniel A

The Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band

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In recent years - when finally CD reissues are beginning to show up - I've become more and

more fond of the Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band. They were very prolific in the studios

towards the end of the 60s, and fortunately most of the albums are very good. In fact, my opinion

is that the albums became better and better right up to the end! The Saba/MPS albums are

certainly the place to start (I don't care too much for the early Atlantics) but even within

the concentrated run of albums recorded during just two years I think they got more and more

exciting.

As I've understood it, the death of lead saxophonist Derek Humble played a big part in the

break up of the band in 1971. It would have been interesting to hear how they would have

developed after that; commercially they still seemed to do very well at that point. A

Swedish jazz magazine tried to do an interview with Francy Boland a few years ago, but he

had left music altoghether and did not want to talk about the band any more.

Here's a listing of most of the official albums:

'Jazz Is Universal' (Atlantic, 1961)

'Handle With Care' (Atlantic, 1963)

'Now Hear Our Meanin'' (Columbia, 1963)

'Our Kinda Strauss' (Rearward, 1966-1972)

Reissue of 'Swing, Waltz, Swing'/Carl Drewo und die Clarke-Boland Big Band (Philips, 1966) with a lot of bonus tracks

'Kenny Clarke Francy Boland' (Supraphon, 1967)

'In the Background' (Saba, 1967)

'Sax No End' (Saba, 1967)

'Out of the Folk Bag' (Columbia, 1967)

'Open Door' (Muse, 1967)

'All Smiles' (MPS, 1968)

'Faces' (MPS, 1968)

'More - Jazz in the Movies' (Campi, 1968)

'Latin Kaleidoscope' (MPS, 1968)

'My Kind of World' / Gitte & The Band (Hörzu/Columbia, 1968)

'Fellini 712' (MPS, 1968)

'Volcano' (Polydor, 1969)

'Rue Chaptal' (Polydor, 1969)

'All Blues' (MPS, 1969)

'More Smiles' (MPS, 1969)

'TNP - Oct. 29th, 1969' (Trema)

'At Her Majesty's Pleasure...' (Black Lion, 1969)

'November Girl' / Carmen McRae and the Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band (Black Lion, 1970)

'Off Limits' (Polydor, 1970)

'Change of Scenes' / Stan Getz & Francy Boland (Verve, 1971)

A few general remarks:

I've seen it stated more than once that this band was spectacular live, and being too young

to have experienced that I cannot comment on that. However, I've discovered that I enjoy the

concentrated performances in the studio a lot more than the live recordings I've heard. Not

that the band was short on good soloist (although Boland himself is perhaps not among the

most interesting), but the arrangements were always more important than the solos. In fact,

the shorter the performance, usually the more I like it! Boland managed to get so much into

a three or four minute arrangement without making it sound overwritten. Among the best

examples is the waltz album now reissued by Rearward which contains a couple of really

interesting cuts which were previously unreleased.

The two drummers sound so much like one man that I never think of it. Really one of the best

examples of two drummers in this kind of setting.

Almost all the time the band plays wonderfully in tune, and the brass section has a very fat

sound which is nevertheless easy on the ear. Without knowing anything about it, it sounds as

if they were miked rather close in the Lindström studio in Cologne where most of the

Saba/MPS albums were recorded. (Possibly the use of reverb was a bit too generous, though)

I have not heard all of the albums listed above, but among the favourites are 'Latin

Kaleidoscope', 'Our Kinda Strauss', 'Fellini 712', 'More', 'All Smiles' and 'Off Limits'.

It would be interesting to hear what you others think - all kinds of opinions are welcome!

Edited by Daniel A

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This was a fantastic big band - one of the very first I heard on recordings (the 'More Smiles' album) and a match in my view for Thad and Mel, which is saying something.

Fantastic pool of the best players from mainland Europe and Uk with some US 'ringers' thrown in.

I think I've got all of the LPs apart from the Gitte and half of the 'Folk Bag'. All are rewarding - worth adding also the 'Golden Eight' recorded for Blue Note and the later Boland albums ('White Heat', 'Red Hot' and 'Blue Flame') for MPs. I'm also a huge fan of those Rearward compilations - beautifully put together and available from Schema.

Yes, I think the story was that Humble's sad passing, combined with that of Ake Persson, took away much of the 'heart' of the band and led to its demise. Fortunately they recorded a fair bit and much of it was very well captured by the SABA engineers.

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Pity the band never came to the States - I only got to enjoy them on record. I like the early stuff a lot, especially "Now Hear Our Meanin'" (Columbia) and "The Golden Eight" (Blue Note).

Another really adventurous record they made was "Change of Scene" with Stan Getz. Took me years to track this one down!

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Indeed, Åke Persson was probably the finest Swedish jazz trombonist. But his tragic death was not until 1975, when the CBBB seemed to have been permantly put to sleep.

Did not want to make this thread too sad, though. The CBBB is a joy to hear! :)

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That Clarke-Boland big band was magnificient. It produced a wealth of albums that are oustanding.

One that is not listed and is well worth getting is the double CD of the October 1969 concert at the TNP/Palais de Chaillot concert that was released as part of the Europe 1 concerts discs series on the Trema label. Not a bootleg!

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One of my favourite bands - probably Off Limits is my favourite because it goes a bit further than the others technically, but I pretty much love them all. However, the CBBB is a good example of why jazz and especially big bands should be recorded in stereo. The CBBB benefits from the fact that they also had a good label in terms of hi fi (MPS and Polydor). The only albums I am slightly disappointed with by them is the double live one recorded in Paris - can't remember the label - something like Laserlight I think? But not because of the music just the recording. When will 'At Her Majesty's Pleasure...' be reissued on CD?

Edited by RogerFarbey

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I've always been disappointed with the sound on that live Laserlight/RTE (not sure which) double CD. Doesn't really do the band justice, although any CBBB is worth having.

'At Her Majesty's Pleasure' is a really good one. All of the tracks named after famous UK prisons/penitentiaries. I think one of the band (Griffin?) was having UK tax problems at the time and detect the wit of Ronnie Scott behind this one. Magnificent feature for Tony Coe on one of the tracks ('Holloway', I think - very fitting title), I don't think he's ever done anything better.

Wish I'd had the chance to see these guys during one of their seasons at Ronnie's.

Edited by sidewinder

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One that is not listed and is well worth getting is the double CD of the October 1969 concert at the TNP/Palais de Chaillot concert that was released as part of the Europe 1 concerts discs series on the Trema label. Not a bootleg!

Thanks Brownie - it's added to the list!

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Anyone know if Rearward/Schema have any more CBBB new releases/reissues up their sleeves?

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Can somebody comment on the Dusty Groove review of Off Limits?

Easily the hippest of the Clarke-Boland Big Band Records from the classic years -- a set of hard grooving tracks that really pushes the envelope of their style! There's a few elements here that are different than usual -- such as the presence of electric piano on a few tracks, which creates a very new sound for the group, the presence of some exotic jazz influences (perhaps borrowed from the MPS Jazz Meets The World series), and the use of some edgier compositions on the set, including work by late 60s European free-thinkers, like Eddie Louiss, Albert Mangelsdorff, and John Surman. The reed work is really incredible in this setting -- and is handled by Sahib Shihab, Ronnie Scott, Billy Mitchell, and Derek Humble -- all of whom seem to blow with inspiration from Surman -- using tones that are far more out there than usual.

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Not sure if I can add much more to the review other than agree with it and comment that some of the sounds on this LP remind me of contemporary big bands of this era who were stretching out into the jazz-rock domain such as Maynard Ferguson. Emphasis is very much on a big brass sound - good example being 'Astrorama'. Loud, brash and very enjoyable. Reissue of this one is available on CD and LP from Rearward.

Rearward Reissues

Edited by sidewinder

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Not sure if I can add much more to the review other than agree with it and comment that some of the sounds on this LP remind me of contemporary big bands of this era who were stretching out into the jazz-rock domain such as Maynard Ferguson. Emphasis is very much on a big brass sound - good example being 'Astro Rama'. Loud, brash and very enjoyable. Reissue of this one is available on CD and LP from Rearward.

Thanks, but could you clarify some more, please? The DG review makes it sound as if it's an album that flirts w/"free", and you're saying that it reminds you of Maynard's early 70s work. Is it a little bit of both?

I remember when "free" and "jazz/rock" were actually somewhat compatible, so I'd welcome it if such was the case!

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Hi Daniel,

you should in any case try to get the Verve Two-fer of the All Blues/Sax No end MPS sessions.Specially the Sax No End to me is by far the most dynamic session the CBBB did.

Not sure about it but you can still get that at jpc.de and I do as well have one spare copy :D .

@brownie: the TNP 2-fer you refer is the one recorded at 29th ? I got that on (German) Laserlight and it sounds reasonable to me.

Cheers, Tjobbe

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@brownie: the TNP 2-fer you refer is the one recorded at 29th ? I got that on (German) Laserlight and it sounds reasonable to me.

Cheers, Tjobbe

Yes, it's the original release. Recorded October 29, 1969!

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Not sure if I can add much more to the review other than agree with it and comment that some of the sounds on this LP remind me of contemporary big bands of this era who were stretching out into the jazz-rock domain such as Maynard Ferguson. Emphasis is very much on a big brass sound - good example being 'Astro Rama'. Loud, brash and very enjoyable. Reissue of this one is available on CD and LP from Rearward.

Thanks, but could you clarify some more, please? The DG review makes it sound as if it's an album that flirts w/"free", and you're saying that it reminds you of Maynard's early 70s work. Is it a little bit of both?

I remember when "free" and "jazz/rock" were actually somewhat compatible, so I'd welcome it if such was the case!

Yep, it flirts with both styles. Not a 'free' recording by any stretch of the imagination - the main influence in this area is in the free-ish collective improvisations incorporated into some of the tracks (e.g. 'Astrorama). In terms of sound it has all of the usual CBBB hall-marks of dynamics and impecabble section work but also adventurous charts by Boland from tunes by Surman, Mangelsdorff and Jean Luc Ponty. Boland also plays electric piano on this LP.

Check out the sound samples on the Schema site !

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Can somebody comment on the Dusty Groove review of Off Limits?

Actually I listened to 'Off Limits' today just before starting this particular thread. The DG review sums it up pretty well. Do not expect anything too far out - it's still very much in the tradition of the previous albums. But I think the band - and most of all, Boland's arrangements - developed during the 1968-70 period. Certainly I think they are stretching the boundaries of the idiom as much as possible without going into another style altogether. To my ears it's definitely nothing like the Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman albums of the time (which I enjoy, too). This is really the best of two worlds in my opinion.

Edited by Daniel A

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Nice to see that this thread generates so much response!

To sidewinder: I had not read your reply to Jsngry when I made the comparsion with Ferguson and Herman. I have now added a "To my ears" to that statement as to not appear too polemic. :)

Edited by Daniel A

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Thank you both. I'll be ordering it!

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Nice to see that this thread generates so much response!

To sidewinder: I had not read your reply to Jsngry when I made the comparsion with Ferguson and Herman. I have no added a "To my ears" to that statement as to not appear too polemic. :)

It's probably 'Super Bone Meets The Bad Man' from Maynard's 'Chameleon' which has triggered off this thought - thinking of 'Astrorama' in particularly.

I think/hope Jim will like the 'Off Limits' recording. Just listening to the Rearward LP and it's stunning.

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I'll be interested to hear what you think of it after you've had time to absorb it, Jim!

A pity Dusty Groove no longer have the 'Our Kinda Strauss' album in stock. There is espescially a late track, Lotus, from 1972, which is very much out of the same bag as the 'Off Limits' album.

A footnote for Europeans; it seems as if these albums are available a bit cheaper - even including additional shipping - from DG than from the Rearward/Ishtar site itself (link in Sidewinder's post above).

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DG seems to have Change Of Scene for $9.99!

Do not hesitate.

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Can somebody comment on the Dusty Groove review of Off Limits?

Actually I listened to 'Off Limits' today just before starting this particular thread. The DG review sums it up pretty well. Do not expect anything too far out - it's still very much in the tradition of the previous albums. But I think the band - and most of all, Boland's arrangements - developed during the 1968-70 period. Certainly I think they are stretching the boundaries of the idiom as much as possible without going into another style altogether. To my ears it's definitely nothing like the Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman albums of the time (which I enjoy, too). This is really the best of two worlds in my opinion.

Yes we're not talking Don Ellis here - it's still quite patently CBBB. But the arrangments of the tracks are great - I particularly like Surman's Winter Song also now available on Jazz in Britian 1968-9 just reissued on Vocalion.

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I have just about everything that this band made available commercially ... It took me some time to convince others in the 70s and 80s that this really was a GREAT jazz orchestra. I used to feature the CBBB regularly on my radio show, and they never failed to elicit lots of mail and phonecalls. That two drum sound with Kenny Clare was amazing, and when Joe Harris played tympanies on occasion that was enough to send shivers up my spine... We must also not forget how much Sahib Shihab contributed to the "sound" of this band ... his flute and baritone are indispensible to what Francie Boland was trying to achieve, and his career was revitalized in this ensemble ...

Garth,

Houston.

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We must also not forget how much Sahib Shihab contributed to the "sound" of this band ... his flute and baritone are indispensible to what Francie Boland was trying to achieve, and his career was revitalized in this ensemble ...

I agree with you completely! I forgot to write something about Shihab (and he really deserves a thread of his own). His solos always have a degree of unpredictability; the results are sometimes wonderful, sometimes a bit weird, but always interesting and always deeply personal.

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Don't forget "Midnight Mood" by Mark Murphy with an octet of Clarke-Boland bandmembers backing him.

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