After forging bop history and founding the Modern Jazz Quartet, Pittsburgh-born drummer Kenny "Klook" Clarke (1914-85) left the United States for Europe in 1956. He played for several years in a trio with Bud Powell, then hooked up with conservatory trained pianist Francy Boland (b. 1929) to form the Clarke-Boland Big Band (C-BBB), one of Europe's preeminent jazz orchestras. From 1961 to 1972, the group recorded a whopping 35 albums and at various times, featured some of Europe and America's finest names in jazz: Art Farmer, Johnny Griffin, Benny Bailey, Ronnie Scott, Sahib Shihab and Jimmy Woode.
The seemingly unlikely partnership of Clarke and Boland made for a formidable foundation. Clarke had unfaltering rhythm and a broad sense of swing and Boland, whose always inspired pianistic witticisms were only briefly revealed, proved a gifted composer/arranger of rare insight and exceptional tonal variety. Like Ellington, Boland conceived of musical stories, often to be told by the specific talents and abilities of the orchestra's soloists (1969's At Her Majesty's Pleasure, for example, was a suite written entirely to chronicle Griffin's arrest in London for back tax payments). But, still, this was a musician's band given to old-fashioned bouts of section playing and audience-rousing performances. And even the multi-cultural casting and diverse musical backgrounds couldn't prevent the coalescence of Clarke and Boland's unified conception.
Italian producer Gigi Campi became the orchestra's manager, producer and all around guru/inspiration. It is he who oversaw the vast recorded legacy of the Clarke/Boland aggregates. It is Campi who has also supervised the CD release of C-BBB projects on the German MPS and Emanon labels. Here, he teams with the Italian Rearward label to release once-rare and some never issued Clarke/Boland music. The packaging is exceedingly handsome: cardboard slipcases holding complimentary digipack CD cases and separately bound booklets with British chronicler (and Klook biographer) Mike Hennessey's notes, superb (though buried) credits and rare photos. What's more, Campi has obsessively restored the recordings for pristine sound quality and expertly captured the orchestra for the digital age.