Francy BOLAND starts playing the piano at the age of 8. He then moves to Liège to study at the Music Conservatory after World War II.
Soon he gets in touch with the musicians of the legendary Bob Shots (Bobby JASPAR, Jacques PELZER, René THOMAS etc…). He joins the band in 1949 for its last period of activity and records in Paris a few tracks on which his piano solos already show a definite be bop phrasing.
He appears on several radio shows, plays in Antwerp with another Belgian jazz legend, saxophone player Jack SELS. In these years he occasionnally also plays the trumpet or the mellophon.
He then moves to Paris, where he joins a circle of Belgian musicians that includes saxophonist Bobby JASPAR, bassist Benoît QUERSIN and vibraphone player SADI.
His reputation grows not only as a pianist, but also as a composer/arranger. He writes for Henri RENAUD's band in 52, SADI in 53 and Aimé BARELLI in 54.
He then meets Chet BAKER and joins his quintet in 55-56. They make several recordings and a European tour with French saxophone player Jean-Louis CHAUTEMPS. Chet takes him to the US. It is there that he will present his charts to Count BASIE.
Francy BOLAND gets busier and busier on the international scene, dividing his time between the piano and the writing.
Francy BOLAND stays in the US for a few years. He has the rare opportunity to write arrangements for Count BASIE, Benny GOODMAN and Mary Lou WILLIAMS.
With Kenny CLARKE he forms an octet to record an album for the Blue Note label : The Golden Eight.
Back in Europe, he works as a pianist and composer/arranger for Kurt EDELHAGEN and his big band, a jazz institution in Germany. In the same country, he also writes for Werner MULLER and later for the WDR Big Band.
He also tours in Germany with U.S. saxophonist Don BYAS, in a band that also includes drummer Kenny CLARKE, Jean WARLAND and SADI. He also tours with Hans KOLLER (ts), Oscar PETTIFORD (b), Kenny CLARKE (drs).
In 1962, with the help of Italian producer Gigi CAMPI, he founds with legendary US drummer Kenny CLARKE the KENNY CLARKE - FRANCY BOLAND BIG BAND, of which he is the musical director. This exceptional orchestra included some well known European players (Carl DREWO, Ronnie SCOTT, Tony COE, Derek HUMBLE, Nat PECK, Ake PERSSON, Dusko GOJKOVIC, Ack VAN ROOYEN, Stan SULZMANN, Jimmy DEUCHAR, Manfred SCHOOF, Albert MANGELSDORFF, Eric VAN LIER, Ron MATHEWSON, SADI, Kenny CLARE etc…), plus a significant contingent of Americans living in Europe (Benny BAILEY, Jimmy WOODE, Art FARMER, Sahib SHIHAB, Shake KEANE, Idrees SULIEMAN, Herb GELLER, etc). They recorded many albums for Atlantic, CBS, MPS/Saba records, some of them with notorious guests, such as Johnny GRIFFIN, Eddie "Lockjaw" DAVIS, Phil WOODS, Zoot SIMS, Stan GETZ etc. Some of the charts that he wrote have become jazz standards, like Sax no End, a composition featuring some brilliant saxophone section work (there is even a version recorded by the Oscar PETERSON Trio…!).
The band lasted for 11 years and recorded over 30 albums.
In 1969, Francy BOLAND plays in a superband of European winners of the Down Beat Poll , featuring John SURMAN (sax), Albert MANGELSDORFF (tb), Karin KROG (voc.), Niels Henning Orsted PEDERSEN (b.), Daniel HUMAIR (drs). They record for MPS.
For the same label, he records "Ensadinado" with his old friend SADI.
He also records "Night Lady" in quartet with Johnny GRIFFIN, Jimmy WOODE and Kenny CLARKE.
In 1980, he wrote some arrangements for Sarah VAUGHAN.
In '84, he also received the unexpected task to put music to the poems written by the pope Jean-Paul II, for a television program.
Francy BOLAND now lives in Geneva, Switserland, where he slowed down his activities a bit, but still works for the radio, some theaters, some teaching etc.
Francy BOLAND is indoubtly one of the major figures of jazz writing in Europe. His contribution as an arranger/composer is impressive. Besides all the prestigious bands he formed or for which he wrote, let's also mention that he also wrote charts for Belgian bands too, a.o. the BRTN Jazz Orchestra (radio) and ACT BIG BAND. During the Jazz Middelheim Festival in August '97, the BRUSSELS JAZZ ORCHESTRA paid a special tribute to Francy BOLAND, under the musical direction of his long time friend Jean WARLAND.
Francy BOLAND died on Aug. 12, 2005 in Geneva (Switserland), of cancer.
Francy BOLAND and the CLARKE/BOLAND Big Band have recorded numerous albums, on Blue Note, CBS, Atlantic, Verve and MPS/Saba records, a few of which can be found on CD (MPS, Verve, Enamon, Schema Rearward…) :
SELECTED FRANCY BOLAND DISCOGRAPHY :
# with SADI : "Ensadinado" (LP, Saba SB 15111) (with Kenny CLARKE, Jimmy WOODE) (1966)
# "Out of the background" (with Kenny CLARKE, Jimmy WOODE, Sadi) (LP SABA SB 15137 , now available on CD in Japan, MPS POCJ-2825) (1967)
# "The Golden Eight" (LP, Blue Note 84092) (in octet, already with Kenny CLARKE) (available on CD in Japan, Blue Note TOCJ-4092).
# "Karl Drewo meets Francy Boland : "Clap Hands, Here comes Charlie" (Rearward RW 105 CD)
and with the CLARKE/BOLAND BIG BAND :
# "Jazz is Universal" (LP, Atlantic 1401)
# "Handle with care" (LP, Atlantic 1404)
# "Now Hear our Meanin'" (LP, CBS 62567)
# "Sax No End" (LP, Saba SB 15138) (1967)
# "Flirt And Dream" (SABA LP SB 15136/ST, & SB 15071) (1967)
# "All Smiles" (MPS SABA K.133,453 ; 15214/ST) (1968) =
# "Faces" (LP, MPS 15218) (1968)
# "Off Limits" (LP, MPS)
# "More Smiles" (LP MPS BASFCRM 746) (1969)
# "All Blues" (LP Saba MPS15288/ST = CRM 747, 1969)
# "Two Originals" (MPS CD, 67-69 recordings)
# "All Blues/Sax no End" (1967-1968) : CD reissue : MPS 523525 (Polygram)
# "Fellini 712" (LP MPS/SABA 15.220, 1968)
# "Cuban Fever" (LP)
# "Volcano" (LP, live at Ronnie Scott's, 1969)
# "Rue Chaptal" (LP, live at Ronnie Scott's, 1969)
# "Latin Kaleidoscope" (LP, 1969)
These last three LPs now available on 1 MPS CD :
# "Three Latin Adventures : Latin Kaleidoscope/Fellini 712 (CD Reissue : MPS 529095)
# "Live at Ronnie's" (LP SES 12006 ST)
# "Change of scenes" : Stan Getz with the K. Clarke/F. Boland Big Band (Verve CD 314 557 095-2) (1971)
# "Blue Flame" (MPS LP DC 22910 6) (1976)
# "Red Hot" (MPS LP DC 22911 4) (1976)
# "White heat" (MPS LP 0068189) (1976)
# "Clarke-Boland Big Band en concert avec Europe 1" (2 cd's) (Trema/Distrisound) 6
# Clarke-Boland Big Band (Koch CD 2275990)
# "Blowing the Cowwebs out" : double CD set produced by Gigi CAMPI (the original producer of the band) on his "Enamon" label. They include the material from the "Volcano" and "Rue Chaptal" LPs, plus the suite "At her Majesty's Pleasure".
and later :
# "One World, One Piece (LP, 1984) with texts by pope Jean-Paul II.
Check also the Italian label "Schema Rearward", produced by Gigi CAMPI, who was the band's producer, for some relatively recent CD releases :
# "Calypso Blues" in sextet with Kenny Clarke (RW101 CD)
# "Our kind of Strauss" (RW 106 CD) (1966 + previously unissued material from 67-72)
FRANCY BOLAND : HIS DISCOGRAPHY WITH KENNY CLARKE ON A WEB SITE
Check this German site, created by the late Jürgen SCHULZ and Dr. Michael FROHNE for a detailed overview of "the Recordings of Kenny CLARKE with Francy BOLAND and the Band" It is a compilation of all issued and unissued records and tapes by the most famous European KENNY CLARKE - FRANCY BOLAND BIG BAND.
Included are informations about the records, titles with running times, musicans and live material still unissued, discographical informations about small ensembles with the participation of Francy BOLAND or where his arrangements were played and even a title index. Very precious information.