Francy Boland
PLAYING WITH THE TRIO

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“There is a two-fold pleasure in listening to the leader of a big band play in a trio setting. First, there is the satisfaction of hearing a voice that is normally in the background being brought to centre stage. As a composer and arranger, Francy Boland typically spoke with many tongues. Like Ellington, he wrote with specific players in mind and so, as with a playwright, we usually hear his thoughts interpreted and given utterance by others. The big band format allows the band-leader to project their ideas in grand form, and with the widest range of tones and emphases. It also allows a reserved composer to hide his own light amidst the blaze of brighter burning stars. Boland was of famously modest and self-effacing nature, so to hear him play in this context is something to treasure. And with Klook and Woode behind him the session is, of course, a perfectly cut gem: unassuming but wholly flawless, and shining with intelligent musical light.

Second, there is a more intellectual pleasure, for with an occasional trio like this one we get to examine the music of a large ensemble in reduced form, and from the most privileged point of view. In the company of the composer himself, the trio guides us through versions of familiar Clarke-Boland numbers that have been pared back to absolute essentials, allowing us to see the delicate forms that reside within the complex machinery of Boland’s arrangements. The thickets of brass and reeds, the star turns by soloists, the sheer noise and drama of the big band all drop away: the songs are stripped down to founding principles, to the clear colours and subtle accents of the compositional heartwood.

And with this trio in particular we also have the privilege of observing the reactions that take place at the core of the band. Not only do we get to hear Boland’s piano in the foreground, but we also hear the quality of his relationship with Klook in direct form. Their interaction cushioned by the supremely constant Jimmy Woode, the two leaders of what was unquestionably the premier European jazz big band of its era can here be heard stretching out on their own material. There was good reason to separate these recordings from their original setting on Boland’s Vogue LP Going Classic, where they had appeared stirred through with orchestral arrangements, for the private conversation between these three master musicians has all the wisdom and reserve that befits vast experience and immaculate good taste. We should feel lucky that we can listen in”.

Francis Gooding