Kenny Clarke - Francy Boland Big Band, The

LIVE AT RONNIE SCOTT'S - VOLCANO / RUE CHAPTAL
RW 138
REARWARD
Release date 2010

CD

"I remember standing at the bar,' he recalls, 'and seeing Johnny Griffin arrive. He said to me, 'Gigi, you're going to hear some strong shit tonight.' And he wasn't kidding. The band was so powerful and driving, so together, like one tremendous all-purpose instrument." Gigi Campi "It was marvellous. People used to applaud in the middle of the arrangements – showing their appreciation of some of the tutti or soli passages. It was really one of the greatest musical experiences of my life." Ronnie Scott "The first week is a remarkable success and the second is even bigger. Attendance records for the club are broken. Musicians and celebrities of one kind and another visit Ronnie's, among them Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, Amen Corner, Rex Har¬rison, Peter Sellers, Samantha Eggar, Chris Barber, the Rolling Stones...." Max Jones "I am sure that most C-BBB enthusiasts agree that the band's season at Ronnie's was the high point of its 11-year existence. If there has to be one set of recordings, from all the band's repertoire on disc, selected to stand as a monument to the finest jazz ensemble to come out of Europe, then it has to be these 13 tracks recorded live at 47, Frith Street and now digitally remastered to bring the listener as close as technologically possible to the awe-inspiring sound the band made throughout those 12 memorable nights at the club." Mike Hennessey Volcano - Rue Chaptal It is a few minutes after ten-thirty on Monday evening, February 17, 1969, in Ronnie Scott’s, 47 Frith Street London W I. On this particular Monday at Ronnie’s something special is about to happen. A new attraction is to begin a two-week engagement at the club, and this attraction is out of the ordinary. The area in front of the liggers’ bar is thickly populated with musicians, journalists, ‘resting’ critics and broadcasters, radio, TV and record shop personnel and ‘regulars’. The club’s owner walks purposefully up to the microphone and announces, with suitable compliments, the Kenny Clarke—Francy Boland Big Band which will play its first set. He then takes his place in the reed section behind a tenor saxophone. He is flanked by Sahib Shihab, on his left, and on his right by Derek Humble, Johnny Griffin and Tony Coe. This Anglo-American quintet is one of the orchestra’s crowning glories; largely so because Boland writes choruses for it which enable the five musicians to function and flower as an enthusiastically coherent melody section, led, and most effectively, by British alto player Derek Humble. This CD reissue combines two separate albums (Volcano and Rue Chaptal) that were recorded during the same evening at Ronnie Scott's, consisting mostly of originals by Boland, with a cooking blues feature, "Griff's Groove," showcasing Griffin and Bailey, especially standing out. Clarke composed the explosive "Volcano" as a feature for himself and fellow drummer Kenny Clare. Woode, a veteran of Duke Ellington's band, penned the gospel-inflected blues "Now Hear My Meanin'," which has soulful solos by alto saxophonist Derek Humble, trombonist Ake Persson, and baritone saxophonist Shihab. Long out of print and overdue to be reissued, this exciting album is well worth acquiring. Includes a booklet with the original liner notes by Max Jones and John Legg plus additional notes by Mike Hennessey and photographs of from that period. Volcano / Rue Chaptal are also available in separate LP (RW 138 LP 1&2) in vinyl 180 grams.

MIKE HENNESSEY   MAX JONES

 

VOLCANO

 

THE LIVE RECORDINGS AT

RONNIE’S SCOTT’S

 I believe it is fair to say that no CD reissue has been awaited with more eagerness and pleasurable anticipation than this epic Clarke-­Boland compilation of music recorded during the band's momentous two-week engagement at Ronnie Scott's Club early in 1969 and origi­nally released as two separate LPs, 'Volcano' and 'Rue Chaptal'.

The review I wrote at that time for Melody Maker – see below – was reproduced on the cover of each LP and at least one critic con­tended that I had been somewhat extravagant with the superlatives.

But this was an absolutely superlative band and to appreciate its power and vitality to the full, you just had to be there – as I was, night after night – as it held forth in the acoustically and socially congenial surroundings of Ronnie Scott's. As Ronnie later recalled:

'It was marvellous. People used to applaud in the middle of the arrangements – showing their appreciation of some of the tutti or soli passages. It was really one of the greatest musical experiences of my life.'

 

‘THIS BAND JUST HAS TO COME BACK’

 

Will the big bands ever come back? Well, there's one that cer­tainly must and it's led by Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland.

In a fantastic fortnight at Ron­nie Scott's which broke attendan­ce records and attracted royal patronage in the person of Prin­cess Margaret, these 16 musical missionaries from six different countries more than lived up to their billing as 'one of the great big bands.'

They should put a plaque on the wall of 47, Frith Street, rea­ding:

'February 17 to March 1, 1969 – NOBODY slept here.'

In fact, while Saint Francis and Saint Klook and their dedicated disciples were making consecra­ted ground of that particular patch of Soho, nobody slept much anywhere.

Each night, at the end of the second set, when the final, bla­sting sforzando chord of 'Sax No End' was eddying away through the lamplit smoke-haze, that antique cliche of show business came readily to the lips: 'Follow that!'.

 This is a band of such immense spirit and guts that its faults pale into insignificance. The critic, incredulously savouring the almost forgotten thrill of excite­ment, puts away his dissecting knife and reaches for the superla­tives.

So let's strike some commemo­rative medals to mark the occasi­on:

  • For the sinuous tapestry of the saxophones, the mellow authority of the

trombones, the steeple-­scaling audacity of the trumpets and the irresistible propulsion and non-competitive rapport of Kenny Clarke and Kenny Clare.

  • For Francy Boland's belief that swing's the thing.
  • For Kenny Clarke's 1,000 candle­power grin.
  • For the splintering lead trumpet of Benny Bailey and the superb lead alto of Derek

Humble.

  • For Ake Persson, whose 'Sweden Lovely' trombone sound is as smoothly

articulate and authori­tative as he himself is when he talks about his favourite subject – the Clarke-Boland Big Band.

  • For Johnny Griffin's nightly res­ponse to the question, 'How are you feeling?'

(I'm higher than, a mother-lover' or something to that effect).

  • For the cottage-loaf chops of Idrees Sulieman as he blew a storm on 'Box 703'.
  • For the majestic, rabbinical aspect of Sahib Shihab, the best baritone player in the

world.

  • For Ron Mathewson, depping superlatively for Jimmy Woode.
  • For the inspired solo work of Dusko Gojkovic.
  • For the jokes which Ronnie Scott uses to find out if there are any newcomers in

the club.

  • For the great tenor soloists in the band – Coe, making a breathy masterpiece of

'Gloria'; Scott, in his best, urgent and sinewy form; and Griffin, wailing and crying like a . . . . (see above).

And, finally, for all the people who made it possible, including especially Gigi Campi, the band's master-mind, patron, advocate, wet nurse, trouble-shooter and No. 1 fan.

Bring 'em back, Gigi – soon!

 

Mike Hennessey,

European Editor, Billboard.

(Reproduced by kind permissi­on of Melody Maker and courtesy of Billboard.)

Re-reading that review all the­se years later, I wouldn't change a word of it. And I am sure that most C-BBB enthusiasts agree that the band's season at Ron­nie's was the high point of its 11-year existence. If there has to be one set of recordings, from all the band's repertoire on disc, selec­ted to stand as a monument to the finest jazz ensemble to come out of Europe, then it has to be these 13 tracks recorded live at 47, Frith Street and now digitally remastered to bring the listener as close as technologically possi­ble to the awe-inspiring sound the band made throughout those 12 memorable nights at the club.

Gigi Campi didn't get to Lon­don until the start of the second week of the engagement.

'I remember standing at the bar,' he recalls, 'and seeing Johnny Griffin arrive. He said to me, 'Gigi, you're going to hear some strong shit tonight.' And he wasn't kidding. The band was so powerful and driving, so together, like one tremendous all-purpose instrument.'

This CD offers the best of all possible C-BBB worlds - the band at its peak, playing with intense exuberance and total assurance and responding to the stimulus of a highly appreciative audience. As Britain's foremost jazz writer, the late Max Jones, obser­ved in the liner note to 'Volcano': 'Clearly this is a band concerned with communicating in terms the listeners understand and with establishing a happy, participa­tive mood. The ensemble boasts discipline and fair precision, but also the kind of flair which can translate a composer's intentions into ardent performance.

'The brass, thickly and brightly scored, hits clean and hard. The saxophones produce power and tone, slugging it out with a potency that brings back memo­ries of Jimmie Lunceford as well as Duke's regal reeds. And the rhythm quartet settles quickly on a pushing, driving beat.

'First soloist to emerge, through a fusillade from four drum hands, is Idrees Sulieman. Applause at the end and Boland takes over, with ideas a-plenty. After him there is space for Derek Humble, Dusko Gojkovic, the fluent Åke Persson and baritone champ Sahib Shihab. The punch of the ensemble, booted by the drum team, is formidable. As the last chord screams across the room, the patrons respond with untypical rapture.

'Francy Boland looks pleased with the reaction. In his modest way he tells us that the first num­ber was 'Box 703'. Now Boland, who avoids the spotlight as much as he can, is saying that they are going to play 'Griff's Groove'. He waves the 15 men in and returns to the keyboard. The groove is Basie-like, the saxophones loping at an easy blues pace. Trombones exclaim, the trumpets make a point and the band builds section on section to the entry of the 'Little Giant'. Griffin, soloing superbly, is followed by Bailey, tough-chopped trumpet lead and one of the orchestra's principal soloists. Then Griff returns to car­ve out a 'deep' blues improvisati­on against the tutti. The first sta­tement is recapitulated after the tenorman steps back.

'This arrangement is right in the Basie blues tradition, but like so many of Francy's arrange­ments, has a singing melodic pro-party which lingers in the mind. The sounds recall Basie, but they are Boland's own, and Griff's and Bailey's.

'And so the set proceeds, the band revealing different textures and tone colours, different facets of its composite personality, through the medium of Boland's skilled and intelligent writing and the various featured instru­mentalists on 'Volcano', 'Now Hear My Meanin' and other C-BBB originals. At Ronnie's, by the end of this electrifying first night, the audience roars its approval vociferously. Bandsmen smile a trifle wearily, Kenny Clarke grins and even the diffident Boland admits he is happy with the reception.

'This is only the beginning. Each night the word spreads furt­her; more people come to hear this occasional ensemble which has the togetherness of a perma­nent band; and many who have experienced its maximum impact return, in some cases again and again, for another pleasurable shock treatment. Around the bar, discussion is animated and most of it applauds the band's efforts. Seldom have I seen so much extro­vert enjoyment at the Scott club.

'The first week is a remarkable success and the second is even bigger. Attendance records for the club are broken. Musicians and celebrities of one kind and another visit Ronnie's, among them Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, Amen Corner, Rex Har­rison, Peter Sellers, Samantha Eggar, Chris Barber, the Rolling Stones....

'The C-BBB is now caught on record just as it wailed and groo­ved and pleasured the senses in the relaxing atmosphere of Ron­nie Scott's and you can savour its well-organized and co-ordinated performances on this album.

'As you listen to the first set - recorded from 10.30p.m. onwards on Friday, February 28th – you will be able to hear a little of the applause and the crowd noise, a touch of announcing, and then the up blues, 'Box 703'. You'll hear a lot of drumming, too. Cla­re, with brushes, is in evidence on your left; Clarke is on the right. Both are cracking it out, their styles compatible and their sounds, including bass drum tones, distinctly different.

'On Clarke's composition, 'Volcano', scored, as all the pieces are, by Francy, almost the whole, band gets to stand up for a series (of two-bar breaks – old swing band fashion. Then it's Clarke's turn, then Clare's, and they complement each other perfectly. Notice the tightly-written coda. And it is Bailey on top again . . . who else?

'An unusual unison at the beginning of 'Love Which .....' (from Boland's 'Inferno Suite') is typical of the arranger's thoughtfulness in writing for instrumental groupings. Boland uses his little bands within the band in ways which are seldom obvious.

'He likes,' as Klook tells me, 'to hide his subtleties.'

'Now Hear....' is Jimmy Woo­de's composition – a romping soul exercise which has Humble, Persson and Shihab sounding good and the drum duo filling in and accenting splendidly.

And thus to the finale, again from the 'Inferno Suite' and spot­lighting the two Kennys – with Klook on the right and Clare on the left.

'Behind most worthwhile jazz orchestras is one man whose conception of music-making gives the group its character. Now and again the master-minding is done by two. This is the case with the C-BBB: Francy providing the repertoire and Kenny the unpreten­tious swing – the spirit is there!

'Boland is an open-minded and mature musician, receptive to influences but sceptical in the face of fashions and dogmatic theories about modernism in music. Progress, he seems to imply, is all very well; but so is tradition. He writes, like Duke Ellington, the man he most admi­res in jazz, for the men in the band and their distinctive sounds.

‘RUE CHAPTAL’

The seven tracks which follow, beginning with Kenny Clarke's classic blues, 'Rue Chaptal', were featured on the second LP of the Ronnie Scott's Club session and were recorded during the band's second set, which began after midnight on Saturday, March 1st 1969. 'Rue Chaptal' is a showcase for the formidable trumpet soloists in the band, including Britain's Tony Fisher, who was deputizing for the unavailable Jimmy Deuch­ar. With the highly accomplished Ron Mathewson standing in for Jimmy Woode and Scott, Coe and Humble in the saxophone section, the British contingent in the band was as big as the American.

Another Klook original, whose title uses the phrase that Gigi Campi never heard from a musician in the whole history of the Clarke-Boland Big Band, follows. It is a good, 'down home' exercise which might equally have been titled, 'Preacher, Show Doxy The Way To Go Ja-Da'.

The next piece is without doubt the most memorable and celebrated of all Francy Boland's charts – ‘Sax No End', based on the chords of 'Chinatown' and first featured by the band on the SABA album of the same name, recorded in June 1967.

In the liner note to the 'Rue Chaptal' album, John Legg described 'Sax No End' as 'a giant hit if ever I heard one', and added that it was the most vigorously applauded and acclaimed num­ber in the C-BBB repertoire during the two-week engagement at Ronnie Scott's.

This arrangement is a free­wheeling vehicle for the tenors of Griffin, Scott and Coe and the three-chorus saxophone soli pas­sage is a masterpiece of creative arranging. It should never be forgotten that the compositions and arrangements of the immoderately diffident Francy Boland were the musical lifeblood of the C-BBB.

More of that sinuous, sinewy saxophone writing is in evidence on ‘You Stepped Out Of A Dream', and then comes 'Fellini 712', a minor blues which features solos by Sahib on soprano, Coe on clari­net and Scott on tenor.

'The Girl And The Turk', from the Middle East-East Suite, and 'Kenny And Kenny', from the 'Faces' album, conclude this historic set – fittingly providing a framework for the solo talents of the joint leaders of the band that Campi built.






1.Box 703, Washington D.C.
2.Griff's Groove
3.Volcano
4.Love Which To No Loved One Permits Excuse For Loving
5.Now Hear My Meanin'
6.And Thence We Issued Out Again To See The Stars
7.Rue Chaptal
8.I Don't Want Nothing From Nobody And I Ain't Giving N
9.Sax No End
10.You Stepped Out Of A Dream
11.The Minor Blues
12.The Girl & The Turk
13.Kenny & Kenny