The Alexandre Dumas of music
of films, hundreds of compositions and
arrangements, thousands of concerts...
These figures are obviously vertiginous. But, this is
not what we remember of Claude Bolling. What is striking above all is,
same time bold and melodic, the originality of his inspiration.
Bolling: Duke Ellington' disciple (Bollington)
JPJ: Claude Bolling, I
just devoured your biography "Bolling Story".
Personally, I would not have entitled it as
such. I would have chosen "Vertigo": as you describe it, this path of
yours is simply amazing. And again, you only talk about what can be
CB: I reassure you, there is nothing
that is untellable, insofar as the excesses sometimes associated with
never affected me. For me, jazz is a style of music and not a
some of my friends went partying at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, I went home
on the piano.
JPJ: In this book, there
are no less than 57 pages (I mean fifty-seven) listing your recordings.
that doesn't include the thousands of your concerts, as well as the
scores, many of which are unpublished. You are the Alexandre Dumas of
you didn't have any empty periods?
CB: I've always had something to do,
whether through my keyboard work or what I write for the musicians
whatever the group. Today I often wonder how I managed to
JPJ: But what is
impressive is that while dearest Alexandre Dumas wrote
"voluminously", many of your works are ultra-knitted.
Bolling brings a sense of improvisation to the art of composing. He is
settled but nomadic, rigorous but free. He is mature but refreshing The
"Concerto for Classical Guitar and Jazz Trio" is one of the most
successful examples of this dichotomy.
Plucked sounds and struck notes are delicately
interwoven, without any
conflict of interest. Quite a feat, as the fragile guitar could all too
suffocate under the weight of the "digitodrome". Indeed, few
composers have risen to this challenge (apart from Mario
his delicious "Fantaisie"). Elegant yet powerful, this work - perhaps
one might even say masterpiece - is a suite in which each movement is a
development, in which each dissonance hides a treasure, in which each
embodies an emotion. A treat indeed! ".
Do you remember it?
CB: Of course, that's what you wrote
in the highlight of one of our concerts..
JPJ: Just for your
concerto for Guitar and Jazz Trio, I had written pages, but no word of
was superfluous. Does this mean that, once the art is acquired,
CB: Experience is the fruit of
passion. From an early age, I constantly endeavoured to satisfy it. It
obviously started with listening to Duke Ellington and others like
on the radio, but also by enjoying the echoes of various music as I
the streets of Nice and made detours after school to listen to them.
away, I was crazy about jazz. What could be called "L'appel
Du Large" (The Call of the Large). But be careful!
Without being served by luck, I would not have gone behind the mirror:
greatest of them was the meeting with Marie-Louise Colin called "Bob"
who taught me her knowledge. She was a pianist-trumpet
of an all-female orchestra in which her saxophonist-double
friend sang popular choruses. It was with her that I discovered that,
all musical emotion, there is a very complex linkage that requires a
learning process; having understood this, and as I made new
discoveries, I went
to find the teachers who could teach me. For harmony and counterpoint,
Maurice Duruflé, the organist of St Étienne du Mont; it was he who
how to build a four-part harmony according to the classical rules.
René Clément asked me to compose the music for his film "Le
jour et l'heure" (Simone
Signoret - Stuart Witman), I realized that a symphonic dimension was
and I rushed to a professor at the Conservatoire
(Conservatory) to learn the secrets of symphonic music composition.
So, to answer your question, there
is on the one hand the appetite, the one that allows elevation. And
is the sustentation. Once you have acquired the "art", as you said,
there is a somewhat routine aspect of the process. It can happen that
stand still, but have the feeling of being on rails, of being a
without a sting, in a way....
JPJ: Like the performer,
who sometimes gets tired of a repertoire?
CB: That's it. So I experienced
periods of "stages", during which writing was sufficiently mastered
to be assimilated to a routine. Hence my quest, my constant
With each perspective revealed at the corner of a (musical) deadlock, a
desire encouraged me to put an end to clichés, to develop new works;
remaining in the festive register, of course! For me, no provocation,
squeaking, no mystifications. We need to have fun without thinking!
Composer and interpreter reunited
"Association d'interprètes classiques et jazz" (Association of
Classical and Jazz Performers) is a good illustration of this. Your
always demanding. But would this luxury, that of embarking on new paths
according to one's aspirations, be available today?
CB: I'm afraid that no. My
generation went through a period of incredible carelessness because at
time, existential anxiety had precisely nothing of existential! No
for the future. Only the bailiffs worried because they had no outlet!
this carelessness was an opportunity for incomparable emotional
redistributed to the public in the form of bold and uncomplicated
JPJ: I was surprised
among the expressions of sympathy you publish, many deplore the lack of
recognition which, they say, you suffer.
CB: A music creates a craze, then
fades from the collective consciousness before reappearing, like a
coming out of a glacier, several years or several centuries later. But
forget that the expressions you mention come from French friends, who
take into account the popularity of some of my records in the world,
in the United States.
JPJ: So far, you have
divided your artistic life between written and live music.
CB: Yes, since the famous experience
at the Maison de la Chimie,
that challenged the audience to make the difference between a
reproduction and an orchestra hidden behind a curtain, I realized that
music would take a heavy blow. Hence my fierce resistance to this
Nevertheless, I witnessed, helplessly, first of all, the monopolization
record by the industry (whereas at the beginning, I would remind you,
record was not to leave the family home: it was written on the labels:
"all rights of the phonographic producer and owner of the work
reserved. Duplication of public performance, broadcasting of this
record") and then to its perverse use, especially during playbacks on
television: the singer's voice is isolated, whereas everything resides
musical material surrounding it!
JPJ: Nor can your name
dissociated from film music.
CB: Here again, it is a question of
embracing a new world each time because the producer can establish his
on a pre-existing theme (Borsalino) or, on the contrary, require the
to follow the given scenes to be set to music.
JPJ : Could we say
you're Duke Ellington's disciple?
CB: In a way, yes. And many of
my writings are totally inspired by him. But are they useless? We
work that is part of history for an audience that asks for more.
question of snubbing it. The concert is a shared pleasure: we by
and the audience by receiving it.
JPJ: That may be so, but
by writing, by recording, you're still trying to leave a trace?
CB: Consciously or not, yes. As far
as I'm concerned, it will be, well, multiple since I leave scores,
videos. And in regard to "live" concerts, it is the walls of these
mythical places that will remain impregnated with them, well protected
the film slowly deposited by the scrolls of the last smokers, those
people who swallowed their smoke while devouring our notes.
Claude passed away
on December 30, 2020. He was 90