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Claude Bolling is a French composer and pianist whose crossover music combines elements of classical, jazz, and ragtime styles in a unique melange that, once you hear it, cannot be mistaken for anything other than his own.

Bolling was born in Cannes in 1930 but has lived most of his life in Paris. Introduced to Fats Waller's music by a schoolmate, Bolling became absorbed by jazz music, and in 1945 won an amateur competition organized by the Hot Jazz Club. At 18 he began recording Dixieland music and became very popular throughout Europe. It was an excellent time and place to be a jazz musician, for he met many of the genre's major innovators, who were much more respected and revered in Europe than America. Bolling's mentor was the great Duke Ellington, but he worked and socialized with a host of other jazz and classical greats.

Bolling's album "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano", recorded with classical flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and released in 1976, made musical history by remaining on Billboard's classical charts for 530 weeks (yes, over 10 years). To call it classical is a bit of a misnomer, however, for the tunes, composed by Bolling, sometimes recall Bach, other times Scott Joplin. This album cemented Bolling's reputation worldwide, and he followed with "Concerto for Classical Guitar and Jazz Piano Trio" featuring Alexandre Lagoya, "Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano Trio" with Pinchas Zukerman, and "Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano Trio" with Yo-Yo Ma.

It was a song from this latter recording that first introduced me to Bolling; I remember my companion and I ceasing our animated conversation when the by turns rolicking and contemplative "Cello Fan" came on the radio. We were captivated, but disappointed that the wacky tune, so unlike anything we had ever heard, was followed by news: no announcement of who the performers had been. It was a Saturday, and we had to wait till Monday to call up the CBC and demand to know what we had been listening to. I hung up the phone and ran right out to buy the CD, and I've since picked up the others I have listed here. Great stuff.

The official Claude Bolling website is in French. If you want a laugh, as Google to translate it for you; but if you want real information, you'd be better off reading the original French, if you're able. Check it out at
http://www.claude-bolling.com/

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