Pianist, composer, arranger, and big
bandleader Claude Bolling is one the most famous French musicians in the world.
Although his passion is jazz, he is also an accomplished composer of pop music
and has written numerous film scores.|
While born in Cannes on April 10, 1930, Claude Bolling has always lived in
Paris. During the German occupation of France he received musical training from
Marie-Louise “Bob” Hake, pianist, trumpet player and drummer in one of the many
female orchestras à la mode in the inter-war period.
Claude Bolling was introduced to the magic
world of jazz by a schoolmate friend and became enamored with the music of
Thomas Fats Waller. At just 15 years old he gained recognition and high marks at
an amateur contest organized by Jazz Hot and Hot Club from France in Paris. He
soon became interested in the music of several other masters of the piano like
Willie “The Lion” Smith and Erroll Garner. Most influential to young Bolling was
one of the early pioneers of the stride style of piano playing, who went on to
lead a successful big band during the Swing Era, the great Earl “Fatha” Hines.
Claude Bolling organized his first band at 16
and cut his first records at 18. He soon felt the need to expand his knowledge
of music and Germaine Mounier (traditional piano), Léo Chauliac (piano jazz),
Maurice Duruflé (harmony), André Hodeir (counterpoint, orchestration, writing
jazz) became his formative masters.
After serving in the French military, where he
played trombone and percussion, Bolling determined to make jazz his profession
and he began playing in such bustling French jazz establishments as the
and Caveau of Huchette.
Soon he was performing and recording with many famous American jazzmen who
passed through France (Rex Stewart 1948-9; Roy Eldridge 1951, 1961; Don Byas
1951; Lionel Hampton 1953, 1954, 1956; Coleman Hawkins 1961; Albert Nicholas
1955; Cat Anderson 1964) and the name Claude Bolling became synonymous with the
word jazz in Paris.
It was through his presence as one of the
leading French jazz musicians that Mr. Bolling began an association with Boris
Vian, for whom he wrote arrangements for
Possible and Impossible Songs.
The success of the disc thrust Bolling to the forefront of the French pop music
world. Several famous French pop artists from the 1950s and 1960s entrusted
their musical direction to him as he was called upon to help produce albums for
Sacha Distel, Jacqueline Francois, Juliette Greco, Henri El Salvador, and
Brigitte Bardot. His success with the music score for the film
The Day And The Hour
allowed Bolling to begin a noted career as a composer of film music. He has, to
date, written more than one hundred scores of which some were immense successes
such as Borsalino,
The Splendid One,
and California Suite,
to name a few. In the 1960s Bolling also began composing for French television
shows like The Brigades Of The Tiger,
and The Clan.
While the talent
of Claude Bolling has been expressed in many forms of music, he remains at heart
a musician of jazz and a lover of ragtime, of boogie-woogie, and of the
orchestrations of Duke Ellington and Sy Oliver. The pianist Claude Bolling, at
times, takes a back seat to the big bandleader Claude Bolling; his dream of
leading a big band having been realized in the 1950s.
Bolling Big Band of today is comprised of talented musicians, several who have
remained with him for many years. It celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1996 and
made a tour of the world playing to large audiences in the United States, in
Asia, in South America, and in Mexico.
Bolling's aggregation owes much to the
influences of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, and Glenn Miller
but its albums also present the leader’s own compositions written in the respect
of a great tradition. Through its performances the band displays a deep
reverence for some of the greatest personalities in jazz history, such as
singers Joe Williams and Carmen McRae (whom a Bolling-led orchestra backed in
France during 1979), Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the great instrumentalists like
William “Cat” Anderson (tp), Dizzy Gillespie (tp) Jon Faddis (tp), Sam Woodyard
(dm), Rhoda Scott (organ).
In recent times several albums exhibit just
such influence and are “must have” releases for lovers of modern hi-fi big band
jazz that swings.
Bolling’s tip of the hat to Duke Ellington on
Bolling Plays Ellington
Volumes 1 and 2 (CBS 1986, 1987) is a dynamic expression of his admiration and
understanding of the work of “the Maestro” and of how to
big band jazz. His meeting with Stéphane Grappelli in 1991 for the album
(Django d’ Or 1993) is another great phonographic success. These issues allow
the Claude Bolling big band to rightful take its place at the top of the list of
modern day big band jazz orchestras, paralleling the great big bands to which it
walks in stride with.
Today Claude Bolling occupies, by the
reflection of his persona and accomplishments, the role of roving French
ambassador of jazz throughout the world. He is of the same class and school
where came the other two grand French masters of jazz, Django Reinhardt and