Claude Bolling (born 10 April 1930), is a renowned French jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and occasional actor.He was born in Cannes, studied at the Nice Conservatory, then in Paris. A child prodigy, by age 14 he was playing jazz piano professionally, with Lionel Hampton, Roy Eldridge, and Kenny Clarke.
His primary jazz influence was Duke Ellington. The small band he assembled in 1945 drew inspiration from old time New Orleans jazz legends like Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Sidney Bechet as well as the groups led by Ellington sidemen Johnny Hodges, Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, and Cootie Williams. This blend of interests would soon place him on common ground with his almost exact contemporary, Britain's premier trad jazz bandleader, Chris Barber.
In 1948 Bolling accompanied legendary blues vocalist Bertha
Chippie Hill and subsequently gigged with trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Cat
Anderson, cornetist Rex Stewart, saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, and vibraphonist
Lionel Hampton. He formed and began leading his own orchestra in 1955,
eventually naming it the Show Bizz Band.
|Claude with the Duke|
During the 1960s Bolling demonstrated a keen business sense by supplementing his jazz oriented recording and band leading activities with hectic and, one hopes, lucrative service as creator, producer, and manager of Les Parisiennes, a female pop vocal quartet who specialized in rapid-fire novelty numbers, synchronized movement, and brightly patterned mod-a-go-go outfits.
He also composed many incidental and theme music for mainly French films and television (including "Borsalino," "Netchaiev Est de Retour," and "Les Brigandes du Tigre"), while expanding his knowledge and interpretive range to include early modern jazz pianists like Erroll Garner, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, and Horace Silver in addition to swing and stride favourites Fats Waller, Count Basie, and Willie "The Lion" Smith.
Influenced by the attempts to mix jazz and classical music by George Gershwin, Dave Brubeck, and the Jacques Loussier Trio, he composed his Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano in 1975 and recorded it with Jean-Pierre Rampal. It was wildly successful, remaining on Billboard’s Classical Top 40 for over 10 years. Bolling followed this with a string of similar crossover albums featuring one or two solo instruments with his own jazz piano trio, including the Guitar Concerto, (with Alexandre Lagoya); a Violin Suite, (with Pinchas Zuckerman); the Picnic Suite for flute and guitar, (with Rampal and Lagoya); the Toot Suite for trumpet, (with Maurice André); a Cello Suite, (with Yo-Yo Ma); and a second Flute Suite, (again with Rampal), as well as a Suite for Chamber Orchestra and a Sonata for Two Pianos, (with Emanuel Ax).
Here's Rag Polka from above album
Since then, he has written a series of chamber works that while drawing somewhat on his background in jazz, are composed more within the mainstream classical tradition. Many of these works were recorded on the album Enchanting Versailles, including La Princesse, a trio for flute, cello, and harp; a Guitar Sonata, the Dans Le Bois woodwind trio; and Le Papillon for alto saxophone and piano. In addition, Bolling has written the scores for over 100 films, including Neil Simon’s comedy hit California Suite, which starred Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, and Bill Cosby.
Now in his eighties, Bolling continues to compose, record, and perform. He remains one of the most popular French musicians. (Info edited various mainly All Music)