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The Clarke-Boland Big Band: Three Latin Adventures

Douglas Payne By

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The Clarke-Boland Big Band: Three Latin Adventures during its existence from 1960 to 1973. It started as a sextet led by American expatriate drummer Kenny Clarke (1914-1985) and expert arranger and French pianist Francy Boland (b. 1929), then grew to a large band comprised of expatriates like Johnny Griffin and Benny Bailey and talented Europeans like Ronnie Scott and Ake Persson. By the late 60s, its only real competition was New York's Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band. But only occasionally did the C-BBB — or its records — make it over to the US.

The two albums featured on the superb Three Latin Adventures are1968's Latin Kaleidoscope (released on Prestige Records in the US) and Fellini 712 (also 1968). Latin Kaleidoscope is comprised of two suites that are more traditionally Latinate, with the band swinging on well-written parts to a panoply of well-used percussion elements (Boland recruited drummers Kenny Clare, Al "Tootie" Heath" and Sabu Martinez to add their percussion talents). "Fellini 712" may be based on Latin origins, but Boland transcends such humble beginnings to a more universal language.

Gary McFarland's six-part "Latin Kaleidoscope" is a joy to discover — much as it was to first hear his creations for Stan Getz on 1962's Big Band Bossa Nova (to which this Latin suite bears some distinctive similarities). His trademark is simple, invigorating themes with a memorable, childlike quality. "Latin Kaleidoscope" offers much evidence of his gifts. Boland, who added his own touches to this suite, never takes a solo throughout and is occasionally heard on harpsichord; a sensitive touch to sensitively considered music. And excellent solos are taken by Sahib Shihab ("Duas Rosas"), Ronnie Scott ("Uma Fita de Tres Cores") and Aki Persson ("Othos Negrs").

Francy Boland's "Cuban Fever" is like a musical postcard of Cuba: powerful, colorful, exciting, where the unexpected is approached at every corner. The innate skill of Boland's craft is most apparent here. Like the great jazz arrangers, he's a scenarist, a master painter. Here the brasses cover more of the thematic canvas. But it is often the reeds that take solo honors (a nice contrast) — with the exception of the beautiful finale, "Crepusculo y Aurora," which benefits from a resonant Benny Bailey trumpet solo (Clarke's clever shifting patterns are much in evidence here too).

Boland's "Fellini 712" suite is an ambitious, slightly more avant-garde take on Latin themes that is a testament to Boland's substantial abilities as a writer and arranger. This suite, named for Italian director Federico Fellini and a reference to Rome's 712-kilometre distance from the French border, was the result of an invitation for the band to perform in Rome during 1968. Boland was inspired by the band's "dolce vita" Roman holiday and named his three movements after their hotel, the location of the studio where they performed and a café popular among musicians and artists. During this suite, it's as if the band coalesces before your ears into one brilliant entity, each individual providing light and shadow to the collective whole. It is the magic Boland works in his pieces, but it's brought alive by the enthusiastic playing f the band members. The extended time of each movement allows for more soloing too, with exceptional turns taken by Sahib Shihab on flute, Dusko Gojkovic on flügelhorn and Tony Coe and Johnny Griffin on tenor sax.

This is some of the best orchestral jazz that was made in the late 60s, wisely compiled for the CD age by original producer, Gigi Campi, in another one of MPS's well-designed packages with informative notes by Mike Hennessey. Recommended.

Tracks:Latin Kaleidoscope (Um Grao de Areia, Duas Rosas, A Rosa Negra, Uma Fita de Tres Cores, Olhos Negros, Ramo de Flores); Cuban Fever (Fiebre Cubana, Mambo de las Brujas, Extrano Sueno, Cara Bruja, Crepusculo y Aurra); Fellini 712 (Villa Radieuse, 'Tween Dusk and Dawn In Via Urbana, Rosati At Popolo Square).

Personnel: Francy Boland: piano; Kenny Clarke: drums; Benny Bailey, Idrees Sulieman, Milo Pavlovic, Jimmy Deuchar, Dusko Gojkovic: trumpet; Ake Persson, Nat Peck, Erik Van Lier: trombone; Derek Humble, Phil Woods, Johnny Griffin, Rnnie Scott, Tony Coe, Sahib Shihab: reeds; Jimmy Woode, Jean Warland: bass; Kenny Clare, Shake Keane, Al "Tootie" Heath, Tony Inzalaco, Sabu Martinez: percussion.

Title: Three Latin Adventures | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: MPS


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