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There were two big bands that came out of the 1960s that were co-led by drummers and arrangers. One was the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and the other was the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band. A good case can be made for the assertion that Clarke and Lewis were the two best big band drummers of the 2nd half of the twentieth century. An equally valid claim can be made for Boland and Jones being the best arranger/composers of the same period.
This album comes from 1962 and was recorded not long after the C-BBB was organized as a permanent ensemble. Even though these recordings are 40 years old, they sound fresher than ever. Virtuosic straight ahead big band jazz of the type featured by the C-BBB sounds a hundred times more contemporary than the fusion and jazz-rock experiments from the same period. Therein lies the greatness of the C-BBB. Francy Boland, who did almost all of the writing for the band, was a highly adventurous arranger whose harmonic palette was extraordinarily sophisticated and modern; yet his arrangements always swang. Indeed, with sidemen the likes of Benny Bailey, Billy Mitchell, Sahib Shihab and Idrees Sulieman, it would have been almost impossible to do anything but swing.
In addition to its great soloists, the C-BBB featured ensemble work of unmatched quality. In this regard the late Derek Humble must be singled out as one of the greatest lead altos of all time.
Other outstanding performances are by Sahib Shihab on flute in "Long Note Blues" and "Om Mani Padme Hum." On the latter tune Benny Bailey displays his usual pyrotechnics and shows why he was always considered to be one of the most exciting trumpet players in the jazz scene.
But for its sheer hipness quotient, nothing can beat Francy Boland's arrangement of Kenny Clarke's tune, "Sonor." It has that rare quality of being simultaneously laid back and urgently pressing forward.
The C-BBB disbanded in 1973 after a 12-year run. Fortunately, we have recordings like this CD that allow us to hear what all the fuss was about.
Track Listing: Long Note Blues (Here Is Cecco Beppe); Get Out of Town; Sonor; Speedy
Reeds; Old Stuff; Om Mani Padme Hum
Personnel: Benny Bailey, Roger Guerin, Jimmy Deuchar, Ahmed Muvaffak Falay,
Idrees Sulieman, Edmund Falay, trumpets; Ake Persson, Nat Peck, Erich
kleinschuster, Raymond Katarsynski, Frederic "Keg" Johnson,
trombones; Derek Humble, Carl Drevo, Billy Mitchell, Ronnie Scott, Sahib
Shihab, reeds; Francy Boland, pianist & arranger; Jimmy Woode, bass;
Kenny Clarke, drums; Joe Harris, tympani; Sadi, bongos
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.