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The Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band: All Smiles (Edel/MPS)

Review of archival recording by the '60s European jazz ensemble

Cover of Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band album
Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band album

In the 1960s the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band became the first important European large jazz ensemble. It was European with an asterisk. Many of the players were American expatriates (drummer/co-leader Clarke, saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Sahib Shihab, trumpeters Benny Bailey and Idrees Sulieman). But co-leader/pianist/arranger Boland was Belgian. England was well represented (saxophonists Ronnie Scott, Derek Humble and Tony Coe, trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar). Trombonists Åke Persson and Erik van Lier were from Sweden and the Netherlands, respectively.

The conventional wisdom in the 1960s was that European drummers couldn’t swing. This band, of course, avoids the issue. Clarke was one of the living masters of his instrument, a founder of modern drumming, usually credited with moving time-keeping to the ride cymbal. Clarke could lift an orchestra.

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