Claude Bolling (b. 1930)

Claude Bolling is a French composer and jazz pianist. He was born in Cannes and proved to be a child prodigy on the piano. He began playing jazz professionally while still in his early teens, often backing up American expatriates or visiting artists, such as Lionel Hampton and Kenny Clarke. He studied music at the conservatory in Nice and later in Paris.

Bolling formed friendships with many important jazz figures, such as Oscar Peterson and Stéphane Grapelli and has recorded tribute albums to others, including Duke Ellington, Djanjo Reinhardt, Erroll Garner, Fats Waller, and Jelly Roll Morton.

Influenced by the attempts to mix jazz and classical music by George Gershwin, Dave Brubeck, and the Jacques Loussier Trio, he composed his Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano in 1975 and recorded it with Jean-Pierre Rampal. It was wildly successful, remaining on Billboard’s Classical Top 40 for over 10 years. Bolling followed this with a string of similar crossover albums featuring one or two solo instruments with his own jazz piano trio, including the Guitar Concerto, (with Alexandre Lagoya); a Violin Suite, (with Pinchas Zuckerman); the Picnic Suite for flute and guitar, (with Rampal and Lagoya); the Toot Suite for trumpet, (with Maurice André); a Cello Suite, (with Yo-Yo Ma); and a second Flute Suite, (again with Rampal), as well as a Suite for Chamber Orchestra and a Sonata for Two Pianos, (with Emanuel Ax).

Since then, he has written a series of chamber works, that while drawing somewhat on his background in jazz, are composed more within the mainstream classical tradition. Many of these works were recorded on the album Enchanting Versailles, including La Princesse, a trio for flute, cello, and harp; a Guitar Sonata, the Dans Le Bois woodwind trio; and Le Papillon for alto saxophone and piano. In addition, Bolling has written the scores for over 100 films, including Neil Simon’s comedy hit California Suite, which starred Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, and Bill Cosby. Now in his eighties, Bolling continues to compose, record, and perform. He remains one of the most popular French musicians.

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Claude Bolling & Jean-Pierre Daubresse. Bolling Story.