© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Georges Paczynski, the author of the immensely important, Une Histoire de la Batterie de Jazz, which won the “Prix Charles Delauney 2000,” offered this succinct, background information about the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band:
“The C.B.B.B. - The Clarke Boland Big Band - was formed in 1962 through the efforts of Francy Boland and Kenny Clarke. The pianist and the drummer wanted lo form a European orchestra whose sound would be instantly recognizable.
After recording in Cologne on May 18 and 19, 1961. with a smaller group - Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland (The Golden Eight) - the two leaders decided to put together a bigger band, and on December 13. 1961, the recording of Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland ("Jazz is Universal") took place. Among the thirteen musicians were the future mainstays of the band: the American trumpeter Benny Bailey, the English alto sax player Derek Humble, and the trombone player from Sweden, Aake Persson. After the success of this disc, the decision was made to increase the band even further; on January 25. 26 and 27. 1963 the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band recorded in Cologne with 21 musicians. Throughout its career, the band never included less than 12 nationalities.
The personalities of the two leaders. Kenny and Francy. were directly opposite of those of the legendary big band leaders, iron-fisted megalomaniacs like Buddy Rich or Benny Goodman. Not only did Francy write the arrangements for a given instrument, but in thinking of a particular musician in the band, and composed according to the sound, phrasing and style of the individual. Team spirit reigned in the C.B.B.B. Each musician was aware of his importance in creating a good ensemble sound.
The name of Kenny Clarke is definitively associated with the birth of bop drumming. Following in the footsteps of Jo Jones and Sidney Catlett. it is to him that we owe the fact that still today the rhythm is played on the ride cymbal, with snare drum/bass drum punctuations. Jazz lovers see Kenny primarily as a small group drummer, forgetting that he was also a great big band drummer [check out Kenny’s playing in Dizzy Gillespie’s first big band in the 1940’s].
Drummer/leaders have existed from the earliest times in jazz. After "Papa Jack" Laine. there were Ben Pollack. Chick Webb, Gene Krupa. Buddy Rich, Don Lamond. Mel Lewis... the list (and the beat) goes on. The C.B.B.B. is situated in the grand traditions of the big bands. The basic musical concept was of a rhythmic foundation on which the entire orchestra reposed. Here the role of the drummer is clearly vital; along with the bassist, he plays throughout the piece, and is both accompanist and soloist.
But this key role is not without its disadvantages; the drummer has incomparably less freedom than in a small group. He has to memorize the arrangement, playing strictly what has already been laid down, while still leaving room for improvised fills. Some famous drummers have never succeeded in imposing such discipline on themselves. Others have adapted magnificently to it. Such was the case with Kenny, who was able to play with what I will call "controlled madness". In the big band, he played with a big band drummer's phrasing - unlike, for example. Mel Lewis, who in a big band setting performed with exactly the same vocabulary as in a quartet. ...
Running a big band poses all kinds of difficulties, financial and organizational among others. The C.B.B.B. lasted 11 years, and broke up in 1973. It was in no sense a revolutionary band, but there was within it a fundamental and precious element: an intense love of playing. Francy Boland and Kenny Clarke had the great merit of believing that the formation of a European jazz orchestra was possible, despite the supposedly insurmountable obstacles. They believed... and they were right... and we now reap the benefit.”
Georges overview of the Clarke Boland Big Band - known to its many fans as the CBBB - assumes a new relevance with the CD reissue with enhanced audio quality of one of its later recordings on MPS - The Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band - “ALL SMILES."
Mike Bloom Media Relations PROMOTION SHEET offers the following details:
RELEASE DATE: June 23rd 2017
Artist: The Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band
Title: ALL SMILES
Artists: Trumpets: B. Bailey, I. Sulieman, J. Deuchar, S.
Gray Trombones: A. Persson, N. Peck, E. v. Lier
Saxophones: D. Humble, J. Griffin, R. Scott, T. Coe, S.
Shihab Piano: F. Boland Bass: J. Woode Drums: K. Clarke
Vibes: D. Pike
Format: 1CD- Digipac
Cat. No.: 0211956MSW
1. Let's Face The Music And Dance - 3:23
2. I'm All Smiles-3:25
3. You Stepped Out Of A Dream - 3:03
4. I'm Glad There Is You-3:29
5. Get Out Of Town-4:47
6. By Strauss-3:35
7. When Your Lover Has Gone - 4:16
9. Sweet And Lovely - 3:36
10. High School Cadets - 2:05
ABOUT THIS RECORD - by Stefan Franzen [translated by Martin Cook]
“Without ever making concessions to the trend of the moment, the Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band was the embodiment of the timeless art of the jazz orchestra. Its play was proof positive that a jazz big band compiled of top-flite musicians from both sides of the Atlantic could take off and soar. Regarded as the most important big band outside of the US, this bi-continental orchestra recorded over two dozen albums, close to a third of these under the SABA and MRS labels. Recorded in May, 1968, All Smiles was one of the Bands highpoints. The album exhibits a style that became synonymous with this US-European enterprise: it not only swung it was the perfect vehicle for Bolands sophisticated modern arrangements. Trumpeters Benny Bailey and Idrees Sulieman, saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Ronnie Scott, as well as special guest vibraphonist Dave Pike are some of the jazz giants among the soloists in this 17-man combo who turn out some masterly short portraits. From the fleet-footed waltz I’m All Smiles to the bluesy party piece, By Strauss and the sensuous theme from Gloria, the journey continues on through to the furious John Phillip Sousa finale, High School Cadets. Preferring varicolored intricacy over massive walls of sound, The Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band stood up against the constant flow of momentary fads, remaining true to the inventive tradition of the great big bands.”
Original Liner Notes - by Manfred Miller
[Warning these have some syntactical and grammatical challenges for native speakers of English. I decided to represent them in their original translation as I do not speak enough German to attempt my own.]
The one window is open. Hubbub comes up from the street and into the room that is in Cologne's elegant Hohe Strasse/High Street (no thoroughfare!) on the first floor above the branch of some bank. The large, plain writing-table hides itself under paper. Telegrams, notes, contracts, excerpts pile up to several layers. Two of the three phones at least are constantly in operation. On the second table, in a corner, there, too, is scarcely a spot left for an ash-tray. Sheets of notes, a bunch of newspapers, at least ten tape boxes. If a film chose to feature a manager's office like that everybody would laugh at the cliche of overburdening.
The man who hired this room does work hard. It is not that sort of work, however, which the German treasury of proverbs has always rated higher than fun. The man offers his latest product music. Powerfully swinging, precise, intelligent music, music that interests head and feet and everything in between. “All Smiles" is going to be the title of the new Clarke-Boland Big Band album. The man has to shout to make that understood. The two loudspeakers are turned on to the limits of their capacity. The one window is still open...
Gigi Campi never listens to his tapes quietly. An American trombonist, who for some time belonged to the CBBB, once complained. "Funny band. No dynamics", to the protest of his colleague Nat Peck "Yes there are! One is loud, the other is louder..." An exaggerated sentence, no doubt. Yet like every good exaggeration it catches some truth. The CBBB does not play for self-forgetting, absorbed listeners. If it provokes self-forgetfulness, it is that of rhythmical ecstasy. The CBBB does not know the charms of the morbid. This is hopelessly sound and optimistic music. All Smiles.
The Clarke-Boland guys stand for Ellington's fundamental truth: "It don't mean a thing..." It is not by chance that this band plays with two drummers - as if Klook Clarke alone were not a deuce of a swinger. Once his near namemate Kenny Clare acted as a substitute for Clarke who was prevented from making a date. The Clarke indemnification thrilled the band, he was invited to the next session. Klook personally persuaded the English studio musician to become a constant member with the CBBB - as a percussionist.
"Then there was one number", Clare reports, "a Turkish march thing on which I played snare drum. On the playback it sounded pretty good together, just like one drummer. There were some talks. The next time would I bring my drums along, too? Let's see, if it works with both of us playing together. It worked."
Indeed, Clarke and Clare together play like one musician; only that one musician alone could never realise all they play together. Clare: "There are many who would like to get that springy kind of beat Klook gets. I would, too. When I'm with him I can play that way without even thinking about it. As soon as I'm away from him I can't do it anymore. Strange. I have yet to figure it out." Whatsoever may be the key to this secret - the result is a fabulous co-ordination of the two drummers. The first piece - LET'S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE - is an example of this. The fills Klook on the snare drum (for stereo listeners left channel) and Clare on the bass drum do in concert seem as if sprung up from one and the same feeling; and a swinging feeling into the bargain.
It would be wrong, however, to list the CBBB simply under the rubric "powerhouse.” The co-leader, arranger, and pianist Francy Boland has too many ideas for that. You will never catch upon Boland copying simple riffs nor - as the legend goes - exercising. SWEET AND LOVELY forces out of the standard melody continually fresh versions, new harmonic nuances and shades of sound, variations in a strict sense (into which Johnny Griffin excellently joins with a concentrated solo citing motives from the theme once and again): that is - also - an intellectual delight. As the British musical journalist Kenny Graham noted, Francy Boland does not care for trends. Harmonically scored choruses for the reed section have become rare in jazz. Yet Francy dedicates an entire number to the saxophones and with numbers such as YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM, GET OUT OF TOWN and WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE shows what other arrangers do not care to miss.
Certainly who besides Boland disposes of such a reed section? The musicians of the CBBB do not know a comparison to Derek Humble's lead alto that is relaxed and vigorous at once, and ever riding the tip of the beat wave - they give a tired shrug even to the most renowned names. Each of the three tenor saxophonists takes a fine solo - "Li'l Giant" Griffin justifies his nickname time and again. Ronnie Scott blows a virile and straight solo in Gershwin's homage to the king of waltz BY STRAUSS. Tony Coe tells of Dame GLORIA'S merits with rhapsodic vehemence (,,a masterpiece", says Gigi Campi): and Sahib Shihab, who in the Barbara-Streisand-title I'M ALL SMILES solos on flute, is “the outstanding baritone saxophonist of modern jazz" according to Joachim Ernst Berendt. Each of the five reed men is himself a star with a distinguished style of his own, and yet jointly they make up a homogenous and disciplined section. Whosoever generated the rumour that precision and musical temperament were exclusive to one another; he has to be refuted by these five musicians.
And the same applies to the other sections. Benny Bailey, the brilliant, willful lead trumpeter, blows the delicately musical flugelhorn solo in I'M GLAD THERE IS YOU. Cole Porter's GET OUT OF TOWN is meant for Jimmy Deuchar's elegant trumpet and for Ake Persson's powerful trombone-Idrees Sulieman, who in the Clarke-Boland combos mostly comes out with untamed attacca and splendid bop phrases, shows off a different side now: a simple melodic lead and a warm tone in LET'S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE and in the standard ballad of WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE, from which he chooses the first few bars to set out a well-controlled improvisation that does not waste a note.
To those who are still in the dark the Sousa-march HIGH SCHOOL CADETS tells what is the matter with the CBBB. That drives on straight away like - well, no: a steam roller is not likely to go so easily at 250 km/h. You had better not try to sit still to these pieces: Let's face the music and dance. Still one thing to tell you: perhaps you really ought to shut that window now.”
TO EVERY AGE ITS SOUND by Dirk Sommer, reissue producer [Translated by Martin Cook]
Yes, we have worked on the sound of the music that was stored on tapes, some of which are over 40 years old, before they were transferred to the lacquers that are used for the vinyl record production. In the music business this is commonly known as remastering. However, it says nothing about how intensively and with what a sense of purpose mastering engineer Christoph Stickel and I have worked on modifying and improving the sound of the original tapes. Of course as with any LP that appears in the triple-a-series, all the procedures took place using only the finest analogue equipment. As the headline - modeled after the Vienna Secession movement's motto: 'to every age its art' - already indicates, every period has its own typical sound esthetic. We felt that fitting the MPS records to the way recordings sound today would be a sort of sacrilege. As a result, we have simply redressed a couple of traces of aging as well as small inconsistencies in the sound that, because of the technological limitations of that time, were not optimally dealt with on the original recordings. So enjoy some of the most exciting jazz albums of the 1970's and 80's the way they originally sounded - despite or because of our remasterings!”
The following video features the CBBB on Get Out of Town: