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Paris Swing

30 November 2004

A seminal figure in the French jazz scene since the 1950s, Claude Bolling found fame in the U.S. for his jazz/classical collaborations with Jean-Pierre Rampal, Maurice Andre, Elena Duran, and Yo Yo Ma, while in Europe he is best known as a leader of swing big bands.  Bolling formed his first group when he was 14 in 1944.  In 1948, he recorded with Rex Stewart and accompanied blues singer Chippie Hill at a jazz festival. Bolling also recorded with Roy Eldridge (1951) and Lionel Hampton (1953 and 1956), led big bands since the 1950s, and recorded ragtime, tributes to Duke Ellington, and his own original music.

A warm-hearted homage to French popular song, Paris Swing showcases his superb big band in the company of vocalists Marc Thomas and Maud, who cover such French standards as “C’est Si Bon,” “La Javanaise,” “La Boite de Jazz” and “Y’a d’la Joie”.  Maud is a cabaret singer whose clear, sultry voice is perfectly suited to such evocative melodies as “Autumn Leaves,” “J’ai Deux Amours” (popularised by Josephine Baker), “Le Jazz et la Java” and “Syracuse.” The two are heard together on “A Man and a Woman” and the four-part medley “Paris Bouquet.”   The ensemble has seven selections to itself, and is superb on every one, including Charles Trenet’s well-known melodies, “La Mer” (Beyond the Sea) and “I Wish You Love,” Bolling’s “Borsalino,” Michel Legrand’s “Pair of Twins” (from the film Les Demoiselles de Rochefort ) and a rendition of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” The opener, Bolling’s breezy, Basie-like “Suivez le Chef,” is a quick-witted “conversation” between his piano and the band.  Bolling slows the tempo for a romantic version of “Beyond the Sea,” then picks it up again for “C’est Si Bon,” which was introduced by Yves Montand and became a mega-hit for Eartha Kitt in the ’50s.