Remembering Claude Bolling

 April 10, 1930 – December 29, 2020


A tribute to the pianist, arranger, composer and bandleader

Claude Bolling a French pianist who went far beyond jazz in his wide-ranging career, passed away on Dec. 29, 2020 at the age of 90.

Born on Apr. 10, 1930 in Cannes, France, Bolling was a professional jazz pianist by the time he was 14, gaining experience playing with visiting jazz musicians.

He studied at the Nice Conservatory, made his recording debut as a leader in 1948, and primarily played New Orleans jazz at first.

Bolling worked and recorded with cornetist Rex Stewart when he visited Paris in 1949, Roy Eldridge (1951), Mezz Mezzrow (1952), Django Reinhardt, Lionel Hampton, and Albert Nicholas.

A lover of Duke Ellington’s music, Bolling was flexible enough to play bebop in addition to early jazz throughout his life but he also had a parallel career as a film composer, writing the scores for over 100 films, mostly in France

He became best-known for his crossover albums with classical musicians, most notably Suite For Flute and Jazz Piano Trio with Jean-Pierre Rampal which was a commercial hit; other projects included collaborations with cellist Yo-Yo-ma, trumpeter Maurice André, guitarist Alexandre Lagoya, and violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

Whether heard as a solo pianist or the leader of an orchestra, Claude Bolling (who made his final recordings in 2015) always performed music strongly influenced by his love for early jazz.

Here is Claude Bolling with flutist Hubert Laws on the Johnny Carson Show in the 1980s performing an excerpt from his Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio.

-Scott Yanow

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