Francy Boland Playing With The Trio – Kenny Clarke, Jimmy Woode – Schema Records RW148, 37:47 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
(Francy Boland – piano; Kenny Clarke – drums; Jimmy Woode Jr., bass)
Francy Boland and Kenny Clarke co-led one of the least appreciated and under-recognized big bands in recent times (at least in North America). The fortuitous coming together of these talents was in many ways driven by post-World War II lifestyle in the US for many African-American musicians who consequently decided to find a new life in Europe. This trio session from the mid-1960s captures the musicians during the heyday of the band.
Francy Boland was born in Namur Belgium, but moved to Liège early in his life to study piano at the Music Conservatory. In the mid ‘50s he joined Chet Baker’s Quintet and moved to the U.S. for a period of time. He ultimately returned to Europe, and in the early ‘60s and hooked up with Kenny Clarke to form the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band. Kenny Clarke had been on the jazz scene since 1935 when he played with the Lonnie Simmons’s band. Clarke had developed his own drumming style that was focused on a firm but light drum sound. In the ‘40s Clarke recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Tadd Dameron and was the initial drummer with the Modern Jazz Quartet before he left for Europe in 1956. Jimmy Woode Jr., was a highly regarded bassist who spent many years with the Duke Ellington Orchestra starting in the mid ‘50s, and was a part of the band for the famous 1956 Ellington at Newport recording. Woode left the band in 1960 to move to Europe.
With no discernible pianistic antecedents, Boland plays with a light but swinging touch, filled with single-note inventions and a deft approach to musical meter. Although the session is a brief thirty-seven minutes it is packed with goodies starting with “Nights In Warsaw,” which has an Eastern European flavour with tricky drumming riffs from Clarke. “I’m All Smiles” is a lovely mid-tempo piece filled with interesting chord changes and sparkling runs. Jimmy Woode lays down a solid walking bass line in “Myriam Doll” as the tune opens, and then takes an extended solo midway through this up-tempo bluesy piece. Woode’s own composition “Dierdre’s Blues” is not a blues in the true sense of a conventional twelve-bar excursion, but is rather a swinging ode that Boland extrapolates through the full range of the piano keys and Clarke pitches in with a brief brush work master class followed by Woode’s strong bass solo. The session closes out with Jimmy van Heusen’s appealing ballad “Like Someone In Love” which gives Boland a frame to delve into his musical conceptions that are developed though interesting phrases and chord combinations.
For those listeners who are curious about the complete trio sessions, there is a companion album to this entitled Out Of The Background which would be worthwhile investigating.
TrackList: Nights In Warsaw; I’m All Smiles; Myriam Doll; Night Lady; Gamal Sady’N Em; Lonely Girl; Dierdre’s Blues; The Girl And The Turk; Like Someone In Love