If Belgian pianist, composer, and arranger Francy (Francois) Boland is remembered today, it is undoubtedly as co-leader of the European big band he formed with drummer Kenny Clarke back in the ’60s. And while his significant work with the large ensemble justifies that perception, it is unfortunate that he doesn’t get credit as well for his talent as a pianist. Boland may not be a name that resonates like that of a Bill Evans or a Dave Brubeck, but he is a musician that knows his way around a keyboard.
Just listen to him on the recent Schema release Playing With The Trio. The album is a set of nine tracks culled from his 1971 collection Going Classic, recorded in Cologne in 1967. Playing with Clarke and bassist Jimmy Woode, the set highlights Boland’s colorful phrasing and impeccable taste. Not every big band leader is a great instrumentalist—leading a big band requires a set of skills that in many respects has nothing to do with musical talent. Boland clearly had the extra-musical skills necessary for success with a big band and plenty of musical muscle to go with it.
Four of the tunes on the album are Boland originals, two are by Woode, and three are covers. They open with Boland’s Eastern European-tinged, as its title would suggest, “Nights in Warsaw.” A swinging version of “I’m All Smiles” follows, and then two more Boland pieces. “Myriam Doll” features a Woode solo and “Night Lady” has a spot for Clarke. Neal Hefti’s “Lonely Girl” is a melodic gem, handled with a winning touch, and the album closes with three more fine tracks: Woode’s “Dierdre’s Blues,” Boland’s “The Girl and the Turk,” and the classic “Like Someone in Love.”
There is only one problem with this re-release: at 38 minutes, it could well be longer. Certainly there is more material available from the Going Classic set.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00EM606GQ,B00DQ4GJX4]