MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



Cantilena records

Claude BOLLING (b. 1930)
Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio (1973) [35:26]
Suite No.2 for Flute and Jazz Piano (1987) [51:11]
Laurel Zucker (flute, alto flute, bass flute); Joe Gilman (piano); Jeff Neighbor (bass); David Rokeach (percussion)
rec. Skywalker Sound, San Rafael, California, no date given.
CANTILENA 66025-2 [35:26 + 51:11]
Error processing SSI file

Bolling sees his suites, which make use of musical methods from both classical and jazz traditions, not as examples of fusion but of dialogue between musical idioms. The 1973 Suite was the first of a whole series of such works and was composed for performance by Jean Pierre Rampal – later ones have been written for, amongst others Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman and Maurice André. The original recording of the 1973 suite had a considerable commercial success – though if one listens to it now, and listens to it in the light of recordings such as this by Laurel Zucker and, to a lesser extent, the Naxos recording by the Roselli Quartet, Rampal’s playing of jazz seems rather bookish, as it were, something he has learnt from records rather than a language he speaks at all naturally. Bolling’s own playing, on the other hand, is exemplary in all respects.

Bolling is, of course, a considerable jazz pianist. He made some marvellous duet recordings with the trumpeter Roy Eldridge at the very beginning of the 1950s and a few years later featured on important recordings with Lionel Hampton. Recordings under his own name, as a solo pianist and the head of a trio, include – amongst many others - an excellent tribute to Duke Ellington (Claude Bolling Plays Duke Ellington, 1959). His writing for the piano in these suites is that of a man utterly at home in many different jazz styles; alongside, and in interplay with, his comfortable jazz phrasing and rhythm is an informed awareness of important aspects of the language of classical, particularly baroque, music. Joe Gilman is a fine pianist, who sounds totally at ease in Bolling’s music and who is admirably supported by Neighbor and Rokeach. Both have extensive experience as jazz men and as freelance musicians working in the studios of California ... and in Neighbor’s case with the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Ballet and Opera orchestras.

Laurel Zucker is altogether more convincing than Rampal. Only an insensitive, unlistening musician – and Zucker is most categorically neither of those things – could be based in California without developing an ear for the language of jazz. Zucker’s expressive playing, as for example in her bending of notes as appropriate, carries absolute conviction. Where it is fitting she can also produce a ‘classical’ tone every bit as burnished as Rampal’s.

The piano writing seems to me at least as important as that for flute in these suites and it is good that the balance of this Cantilena recording resists the temptation to give Zucker excessive prominence.

These four musicians really work together as a group and the results are highly enjoyable. Bolling’s music is happy and witty, melodically fluent and consistently charming – all qualities that Zucker and her colleagues communicate directly and unaffectedly.

In the first suite ‘Sentimentale’ is played with informal grace and in ‘Fugace’ the pastiche of Bachian fugue is handled with a precision which isn’t merely pedantic. In the opening ‘Baroque and Blue’ the switches between rhythmic patterns are presented with elegant conviction. Like any good jazz musician, Bolling doesn’t forget the great standards – ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ underlies the last movement, ‘Veloce’. In the second suite, ‘Amoureuse’ is a beautiful ballad which reminds one of how much good film music Bolling has written; ‘Vagabonde’ is a fugue which surely nods to Jacques Loussier as well as to his original; ‘Jazzy’ is a furiously fast test of technique and musicianship – Zucker and her colleagues pass the test with flying colours. I have picked out only a few movements which are at present in the forefront of my mind; many of the other movements (the first suite is in seven parts, the second in eight) are just as attractive.

Though this isn’t music which digs very deep emotionally speaking, it is chamber music of a distinctive, intelligent subtlety, full of twists and turns; it reveals more, indeed, with every hearing.

Laurel Zucker strikes me as the well-nigh ideal performer for this music and in Joe Gilman and his trio she has found absolutely perfect partners. They give the best performance I have yet heard of Bolling’s two Suites. Strongly recommended.

Glyn Pursglove

see also review by Patrick Gary



Return to Index

Error processing SSI file