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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 word has got around, from people who have seen one of the concerts which preceded this opening and others who know the band from records or foreign festivals, that this is a team not to be missed—especially in such a jazz sanctum as Scott’s.
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 other familiar but unidentifiable members of the species known as ‘regulars’. The club’s owner walks purposefully up to the microphone, makes a few sardonic remarks about his customers, and announces, with suitable compliments, the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band which will play its first set.
He then, for Scott is no run-of-the-ginmill proprietor, 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.
One, two, boom, boom … while I’m trying to lip-read what Griffin is saying with such emphasis, somebody has counted the band in. It’s off on a fast blues and at once all is rhythmic propulsion, crunching brass and vivid orchestral colouring. This outfit doesn’t need long to fire up. The brass, thickly and brightly scored, hits clean and hard. The saxophones produce power and tone, slugging it out (if they will pardon the expression) 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 which the organization fully wound.
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.
This is something like it, the verdict seems to be, something like it was when the cash customers used to be taken into account. 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. Francy Boland, slick in a big red bow tie, has moved front to conduct the band out. He looks pleased with the reaction in a modest way, tells us that the number was “Box 703”. This, if memory serves me, is named after the postal number for Willis Conover’s Voice Of America radio programme. It has been used as an opener since the band’s first album, “Jazz Is Universal”, which means it goes back to 1961 and the days when the instrumentation consisted of six brass, four saxophones and three rhythm.
I recall that Benny Bailey, Åke Persson, Nat Peck, Derek Humble, Sahib Shihab and Jimmy Woode were in that early band, too, as well as the co-leaders. Which is a lot of continuity for an ad hoc organization to achieve, and a part-explanation of the mutual understanding so clearly shown by the players.
As it happens, Woode is not present at Ronnie’s and his place has been filled by Ron Mathewson. This young Scottish bassist seems to be filling his somewhat daunting role admirably, and as the programme unfolds he sounds better and better. Tony Fisher, in the trumpet section, is another newcomer. But he has already played a few concerts with the band.
Now, the Belgian co-leader—who avoids the spotlight as much as he can—is saying that they are going to play “Griff’s Groove”. The effect, through the loud-speaker system, is strange and indistinct over the hubbub. A neighbour leans towards me to shout: “What’s that? Il sounds like a train announcement at Charing Cross station”.
Who cares, though? Boland has waved the fifteen men in and returned 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 greatly, 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 is one of a series of scores done by Boland for the Basie band, and it must have suited that ensemble down to the ground. It’s right in the Basie blues tradition but, like so many of Francy’s arrangements has a singing melodic property 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 CBBB originals. At Ronnie’s, by the end of this electrifying first night, the audience vociferates its approval. Bandsmen smile a trifle wearily, Kenny Clarke grins what Mike Hennessy termed his thousand-candle-power grin, and even the diffident Boland admits he is happy with the reception.
This is only the beginning. Each night the word spreads farther; more people come to hear the occasional ensemble with 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 flatters the band’s efforts. Seldom have I seen so much extrovert enjoyment at the Scott Club. The critics too, greet the CBBB as they might a fresh breeze on a sultry night. “Stuff your eiectronics”, instructs a “Melody Maker” reviewer. “There is nothing to compare with a top-class big band in full flight. And the place to hear it is in a club rather than the cold confines of a concert hall … Make no mistake, this is one of the great bands—I find it both more exciting and more satisfying than either the Woody Herman or Buddy Rich bands, both of which have roared away in the same setting.” 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 Egger, Chris Barber, the Rolling Stones etc.
The culmination of the band’s short London season is a series of “live” recordings at the club.
CBBB has been 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-organised and co-ordinated performances on this and a companion LP. I hope that the musicians’ joy in music-making, their control of tone and attack, their natural (rather than artificial) sense of dynamics come through the record player as they carne across the smoke-laden air at Ronnie’s. I believe that they do. As you listen to the First Set, recorded from 10.30 onwards on the Friday evening (February 28), you will be able to hear a little of the applause and crowd noise, a touch of announcing and then the up blues, “Box 703”, with its nice ‘spread’ on stereo equipment. You’ll hear a lot of drumming, too. Clare with brushes, is in evidence now on your left; Clarke is coming out of your right (stereo) speaker. Both are cracking it out, their styles compatible and their sounds, including bass drum tones, distinctively different.
The main soloists on this selection are indicated on this cover. Interestingly, you can hear Griffin not quite on mike for his entrance on “Griff’s Blues”, and fancy him walking in as he realizes it. You’ll hear Kenny Clarke’s cymbals on right, also the good sound of Mathewson’s bass in this setting, and at the climax of the blues you can really hear Bailey grandstanding.
On Clarke’s composition “Volcano’” (scored as all these are by Francy) almost the whole band gets to stand up for a series of two-bar breaks—old swing-band fashion. It’s all the horns, I guess, except the tones who are busy elsewhere. Then it is Clarke’s turn, and 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” 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.” He is, it seems to me, always trying to write in the language of pure jazz. It is rooted in tradition but, in a totally unforced way, it’s the language of the Sixties. This part of the “Inferno Suite” shows the textures he can create, and right up to the fine final chord.
“Now Hear” is Jimmy Woode’s piece, 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 Boland’s “Inferno” and spotlighting the two Kennys—with Klook Clarke on the right-hand speaker as always, providing you have a stereo rig. I’m not by nature a drum-solo lover, but Clarke and Clare come as near as anyone can to converting me—to drum duets, anyhow. Behind most worthwile jazz orchestras (or in the centre of them, perhaps I should say) is one man whose conception of music-making—and this should embrace pleasing the listener, though sometimes it doen’t—gives the group its character. Now and again, the master-minding is done by two.
This is the case with CBBB: Francy providing the repertoire and Kenny the unpretentious swing—the spirit is there! Listening to the CBBB for the first few timer does not disclose what its style may be. It has no gimmicks, unless you believe the drum duality to be a stunt, which it isn’t, and owes allegiance to no particular idiom, period or category of jazz expression. 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. Jazz techniques have come a long way in half a century, and Boland is prepared to make use of what appears to him valid for this particular collection of musicians. He writes, like Duke Ellington, the man he most admires in jazz, for the men in the band and for their distinctive sounds. Once he arranged for a single drummer. Now he must chart the course of a two-percussion team, leaving room for individual expression within the framework.
It’s hard to believe, soaking up the spontaneous air of the drum tatoos, that they are charted. But I have Klook’s word for it.
‘‘Francy writes for us”, he says, “so that cuts the problems down. Everything is planned. Francy studies the individual. He knows how I fill in and he knows how Kenny Clare fills in, and when it comes off, well, that makes it a corporation extraordinaire”.
“Dear John, The sun is shining in San Remo and Spring is in the air. After London, it is doing me a power of good to relax here and think back over the past few weeks. It was a fantastic experience being in your home country with the band. It was great to have made so many new friends; gratifying to strengthen old friendships.The aura of Spring which has surrounded me these past few days intensified dramatically this morning when I read the press reviews which you cent me from England. A great feeling of euphoria carne over me—for I could see that the British had discovered that ‘other thing’ in the band—the new element— and had appreciated its value immediately. I cannot say any more. Do you really think you could be right and that I will never again be able to refer cynically to ‘the seven Clarke Boland fans that exist in the world’? It seems to me that the number has grown quite considerably! See you soon…”.
So wrote Gigi Campi from San Remo where he was taking a well-earned rest after three strenuous weeks with the Clarke-Boland Band in England. That letter—which cannot be reproduced here in full—is bubbling over with Mediterranean enthusiasm; it is a veritable hymn of praise for Britain, its people, its critics, the friends the band made there.Britain really did give the CBBB its first big chance. It was-the first time that the band had played together for more than five consecutive days. Between February 7 and March 1, making f u l l use of this great opportunity, the band crossed musical frontiers which even we, its biggest fans, had never dreamed would be possible. The two weeks at Ronnie Scott’s Club helped the band achieve a perfect unison, and from this musical community was born a real family, thanks to the spirit, determination and unabating enthusiasm of men like Johnny Griffin, Åke Persson, Derek Humble and Benny Bailey—thanks, in fast, to all the magnificent pioneers who have been with the band—and for the band—since its inception.This mood of indefatigable enthusiasm can clearly be heard in the music the band recorded at Ronnie’s on February 28, 1969. This second “Live from Ronnie’s”album is convincing proof of the musicians’ great togetherness, warmth and dedication.The CBBB repertoire is rich in volume and contract and I count myself as one of the “seven fans” who knows the book well. But when the band is touring or playing in clubs, the musicians prefer to play the best selections from the “traditional chapter” of theband’s book.On this album are numbers from the second set at Scott’s which started at 00.45. The set opens with a number which belongs to jazz history and which was first recorded in France for Charles Delaunay’s Swing label by a group which included Fats Navarro. Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke—”Rue Chaptal”. Francy achieved in this arrangement the effect of a trumpet carousel. The solos of Bailey, Sulieman. Gojkovic and Fisher are connected with solo runs by the saxophone section.The orchestra shows here how deeply its roots are embedded in tradition. and how it can swing.The same awareness of, and feeling for, tradition are demonstrated in the next piece. which is also composed by Clarke, arranged by Boland— “I Don’t Want Nothin’ “.“Sax No End”, a giant hit if ever I heard one, follows. This title was first recorded by the Clarke-Boland Band in June 1967. At that time the Clarke-Boland Sextet was playing at an international exhibition in Barcelona and was due to meet the rest of the band in Cotogne to record one of twelve radio programmes which a pool of eight European radio stations had ordered. Discussions were under way at this time between Gigi Campi and a German record company concerning a record contract for the band and the company was seen to test the market. Meanwhile, over in London, – Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, who had long expressed a wish to record again with his old partner Johnny Griffin. was playing at Ronnie Scott’s.All these elements miraculously merged together. First of all Lockjaw was flown in from London so that he could have his “battle of the tenors” with Johnny Griffin and, at the same time, both men were given adequate opportunity to shine with the band in a solo capacity. The record company urgently wanted the LP, but there was no time for more arrangements to be written and copied. So Gigi Campi put together a repertoire using unrecorded material written for the band and arrangements which Francy had written for other orchestras— ”Griff’s Groove” and “Lockjaw Blues” (two Basie arrangements), “Griff ‘n’ Jaw”“Shihab’s Waltz” and “The Turk”. The last title can also be heard on this album.The title number of that 1967 album was to be “Sax No End”, a piece which Francy had previously developed for a German radio orchestra on the chords of “Chinatown”.Now the wheel has come the full circle. The chain of events which started in Ronnie Scott’s with Lockjaw in 1967, finished in the same club in February 1969 where “Sax No End” was the most vigorously applauded and vociferously acclaimed number in the CBBB repertoire during the two-week stay. In 1967 the saxophone section, after thirty minutes’ rehearsal, recorded the three saxophone ensemble choruses brilliantly and critic Joachim Berendt later wrote: “Wow! This sounds like a swinging saxophone organ!” The second slide of this album begins with a standard, “You Stepped Out of a Dream”, which can also be heard on the “All Smiles” album (Polydor 583 727). The saxophones are in brilliant form here, too. This superb section must surely go down in jazz history as one of the greatest of all time—a real pleasure for all Lunceford and Ellington enthusiasts.It would be natural at this stage to make comparisons between studio and live recordings. It is easy to understand why Gigi Campi was especially happy with the performance of the band at Ronnie Scot t ’s. “It seems to me that everything sounds so clear and free,” he said. “The cool atmosphere of the concert hall, the tension of a festival performance, the coldness of a recording studio—all these hazards are missing. Everything stems from the feeling within the band who no longer need to keep their eyes on the music. And the public—the best in the world—are doing the rest!” Tony Coe, Ronnie Scott and Sahib Shihab (on soprano) shine in the Blues from the “Fellini” Suite. (Incidentally, watch out for the LP Fellini 712 which will be released by Polydor later this year.) Next comes “The Girl and the Turk” from another Boland suite—”The Middle East-East Suite”. The opening by the rhythm section, augmented by Shihab’s tambourine and Griffin’s handclapping, is followed by the march, led in by Kenny Clare, and finally by Benny Bailey’s cadenza. Listening to Benny’s fiery work on the whole album, one can readily understand why he is so often described as the Rock of Gibraltar and the Whip of the Band. Finally comes the finale with Kenny and Kenny, the master and the master pupil …. a triumphant sforzando which had us standing and cheering night after night. The band has stopped playing and is dancing in groups around the two drummers. Like many of the people packed into Ronnie’s each night, we felt that the styles of all the great big bands— Lunceford, Ellington, Basie, Gillespie—had been fused into one by these sixteen superbly swinging musicians. And maybe that is the new thing, the different element which emerged so clearly from that memorable season at Ronnie’s. Let’s hope that the success of the CBBB means that the big bands have come back. And let us also hope, fervently, that this particular big band is very much here to stay.
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
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
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
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!
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.
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 freeewheeling 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.
Mike Hennessey and Max Jones