If there were any single European counterpart to the great Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra during the 1960s and early '70s, it was the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band, an internationally manned, all-star organization dedicated to the performance of unfettered, non-commercial jazz, and invaaribly featuring the solo talents of the best visiting and expatriated Americans along with Europeans of comparable excellence. Starting in 1961, they were heard stateside on Blue Note, Atlantic, and Columbia releases, but from 1965 on their output was available only on imports. During this period, however, there were also a number of combo recordings made by Clarke and pianist/arranger Boland, three compilations of which had recently appeared on the new Rearward label.
The first consists of 20 performances recorded in Germany in June and September 1965 by a group comprising Clarke, Boland, Sahib Shihab on flute, Fats Sadi on vibes and bongos, former Ellington bassist Jimmy Woode, and on latin percussion the ex-Gillespie drummer Joe Harris. Surprising in his role as singer, Woode comes across quite well on seven of the tunes, but the best jazz improvisations come fom the sometimes vocally enhanced Esy Morales cum Rahsaan-like Shihab flute, the hip Sadi and Boland pronouncements, and the ever propulsive, interactive Clarke and Harris.