Kenny Clarke

Big Band Sound of Kenny Clarke & Francy Boland

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The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band made many recordings during its dozen or so years of existence, though many of its albums were somewhat hard to locate in the U.S. Boland's creative arrangements spread the solos widely among the individual members in a style comparable to that of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. This two-record set, put out by MPS in 1972 is a reissue compilation of two separate studio dates. The later one, originally issued as More Smiles, is heard on the first disc and features a number of American expatriates in addition to Clarke: Johnny Griffin, Sahib Shihab, Benny Bailey and Idrees Sulieman, as well as bassist Jimmy Woode. The emphasis is primarily on standards; particularly noteworthy tracks include "My Favorite Things," with strong playing by Shihab on baritone sax and clarinetist Tony Coe. Sadly, one track (Cole Porter's "All Through the Night") is omitted from this reissue. The earlier date, first released as Sax No End, focuses exclusively on original compositions by the band's members, with a guest appearance by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Boland's big and brassy blues "New Box" is crammed with strong solos by Bailey, Shihab, Griffin and Davis. Davis is the centerpiece of two other Boland pieces, "Sax No End" and "Lockjaw Blues," while Clarke's snappy "Milkshake" gives each of the tenor saxophonists a spin in the spotlight, followed by effective choruses from Shihab and Shake Keane on flugelhorn. Shihab's "Peter's Waltz" is actually a thinly disguised reworking of "You Don't Know What Love Is." Although relatively few of the recordings made by the Clarke-Boland Big Band have been reissued on CD, this pair of sessions merits re-release. As an alternative, this two-record set is likely to be easier to find (and at a better price) than the individual records.

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