Had it not been for the post-war migration of many top American jazz musicians to Europe, it is quite likely that the legendary Clarke-Boland Big Band might never have come into existence. As it happened, when Gigi Campi set up the first big band record date in Cologne on December 13, 1961, (Jazz Is Universal for the Atlantic label), he was able to call upon such distinguished self-exiled jazz stars as Benny Bailey (originally from Cleveland, Ohio), Sahib Shihab (Savannah, Georgia), Jimmy Woode (Boston, Massachusetts) and, of course, Kenny Clarke (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Later editions of the band included Idrees Sulieman (St. Petersburg, Florida), Johnny Griffin (Chicago, lllinois) and Joe Harris (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
In between the much-acclaimed, epic recordings made by the C-BBB big band, there were a number of memorable small group sessions, featuring key sidemen from the big band, which over the years have tended to be forgotten. Happily much of this small group material is finally being made available on CD and this is one of three compilations which will assuredly be heartily welcomed by Clarke-Boland fans the world.
This album derives from the 20-track compilation Calypso Blues (Berlin, 1965) by the same sextet. Apart from offering a vivid confirmation of the impressive instrumental resource fullness of the musicians featured, this collection also serves to remind us that, as well as being a master bassist, Jimmy Woode is an appealing and sensitive singer with a voice often reminiscent of the late Nat King Cole.
The predominant rhythm here is Latin, as established by the opening track, Luis Bonfais “Ebony Samba” which has a quaint, loping beat, its clip-a-clop-a rhythm bizarrely reminiscent of the gait of a draught horse.
“Lush Life” is an extremely hazardous melody, especially for a singer who is also required to play bass at the same time. Jimmy recalls, “It was something of a challenge playing and singing simultaneously – but I wanted to try it because I hate playbacks. It was quite difficult to keep the beat and handle the complex phrasing of the song and especially after a heavy bar session the night before!”. Woode pulls it off very well and it is certainly one of the highlights of the album. In addition to being featured as a vocalist on seven tracks of this album, Jimmy Woode also contributes five compositions, one co-written with Francy Boland and one with Sahib Shihab.
“Tin Tin Deo” by Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo and arranger Gil Fuller, was first recorded by Dizzy Gillespie in March 1951. Here Shihab’s sprightly flute is featured against rattling percussion and Boland’s chorded work has a distinct Afro-Cuban touch.
The Latin mode continues with Shihab’s composition, “Please Don’t Leave”, a song in cha-cha rhythm which has a pleasing vocal by the composer, even if the intonation here and there 5 somewhat flawed.
“Potter’s Crossing” is a lively 12-bar blues by Woode which has fine solos by Shihab, Sadi and Boland – note the mischievous way in which Shihab deliberately falls behind the beat in the lead-in to his flute solo, almost as if he were running out of steam which, as his solo testifies, was certainly not the case.
Burt Bacharach’s “Wives And Lovers” was a chart hit for Jack Jones back in 1963. This instrumental version has Shihab and Sadi sharing the melody and Sadi trading solo choruses first with Shihab then with Boland.
“Ensadinado” is a Jimmy Woode composition titled by Boland in tribute to Fats Sadi. “The message of the song,” says Woode, “is that you should always look on the bright side of life – but I must admit that I had trouble trying to find rhymes for that title!”.
Dizzy Gillespie wrote “Lorraine” – dedicated to his wife. An attractive composition in cha-cha time, it features Shihab on flute and Sadi on marimba.
The popular standard, “Day By Day”, written in 1946 by Axel Stordahl, Sammy Cahn and Paul Weston, is given a Latin treatment here and brings Jimmy Woode back to the vocal microphone. Says Woode: “This tune was Francy Boland’s choice. Actually I sang it on the very first record I ever made – with Nat Pierce, back in 1949, when I was still at school”.
Belgian saxophonist Jack Sels wrote “Love Hungry”, a delightful ballad which deserves to be better known. This track is a feature for piano, bass and drums and Boland’s work here is most thoughtful and sensitive.