Hmmm, I'm not precisely sure what's going on here, but I'm happy as hell this CD was issued. Francy Bolland was a prodigy, at 20 already working with top level Belgian big bands before joining Chet Baker's quintet prior to moving on to arrange for the American heavyweights Basie, Goodman, Herman, and Gillespie. With that stellar a track record before the age of 30, you'd think the guy would've settled in and rode his success like a ferris wheel, but no. A bit of a restless spirit, he returned to Europe and became Kurt Edelhagen's chief arranger before recruiting his favorite bassist, Kenny Clarke, and forming the Kenny Clarke - Francy Boland Big Band, which became huge, one of the most critically acclaimed such ensembles outside the U.S.
Oh, wait a minute, as I read the promo and do a little on-line research, now I see what's happening. Playing with the Trio was originally titled Going Classic and saw the Bolland / Clarke / Jimmy Woode triad nestled into symphonic arrangements but now, eight years after Bolland's death, someone went back and decided to extract the trio from the original session strings to better shine lights on the musicians' interplay sans sweetening. Well, whomever that soul was, give him or her a medal, because this is a highly intriguing re-master / re-issue / chop shop kinda gig not often put before the public but oh-so-needed.
I'm having a really rough time trying to pigeonhole Boland's brilliant piano work, but that very failure shows why he was so desired and hired by the lions of the time: the guy was a complete original. The closest I can come is to urge the listener to try to imagine a Waring Blendered Bill Evans / Paul Bley / Keith Jarrett / Chick Corea (early days) / Dave Brubeck hybrid, though that hardly fills the bill, and the daring Gamel Sady'n'em shows why. Pure art, with striking passages by Clarke, but then the short take on Neil Hefti's Lonely Girl mixes up pop, trad jazz, and improv with abandon, packing a ton of intrigue into just 2:50. Woode gets some unusual licks in on The Girl and the Turk and is a constant presence otherwise, making the three exceptionally well integrated, loose as a beatnik coffee house and tight as a metronome, but it's Boland's work that's the most riveting time and again.
What he does with time is both subtle and overt, often concurrently, showing an ability to toy with meter at will, well beyond norms of thought…even for jazzbos, but his intonations and nuances dovetail right into all of that, and repeated listens are required to truly appreciate what a wunderkind this guy was. Until this Playing with the Trio, I'm almost ashamed to say I'd never heard of him (I doubt many in this country have, actually), and, after looking on-line, there isn't terribly much he released under his own moniker, so I suspect I'm going to be in for the dog's dinner on any quest to track down opuses. Thus: that someone who needs to be congratulated for going back and reformulating this classic 1967 disc into its new stripdown? From what I can tell, the Schema label Trio appears on operates on a Naxos level, so maybe, just maybe, the two labels can be convinced to don cape, cane, and pipe and start Sherlocking the scene for more Boland materials. It'd be a damn shame if a guy of this caliber might slip out of history because his genius was overshadowed by those he worked with rather than on his own ultra-merits.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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