He was born in Cannes, studied at the Nice Conservatory, then in Paris. A child prodigy, by age 14 he was playing jazz piano professionally, with Lionel Hampton, Roy Eldridge, and Kenny Clarke. He was a major part of the traditional jazz revival in the late s, and he became friends with Oscar Peterson. He has written music for over one hundred films, mostly French, starting with the score for a documentary about the Cannes Film Festival, and including the films Borsalino , and California Suite Bolling is also noted for a series of "crossover" collaborations with classical musicians.
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For one man, his wish to augment and reinterpret a certain piece of the flute repertoire began on the very day he first heard it, as an undergraduate student of Minnesota State University in Like so many new connections these days, I first encountered Steve through Facebook.
One of my responsibilities as European Artist-in-Residence for the Wm. Haynes Flute Co. Always seeking to promote my fellow Haynes artists, I was interested to feature the work of the legendary jazz flautist Hubert Laws. I saw that there was a new and interesting project that he was involved in with Steve, and once I had listened to a few of the snippets that had been shared online, my appetite was sufficiently whetted to get in touch to find out more.
This being a modern-day encounter, I arranged an interview with Steve via Skype with me in South London, and he in his home in Colorado Springs. We began speaking about the original Rampal recording. I loved the writing, I loved the playing, but always felt like it needed different treatment. Jazz flute was a rougher, more raw, occasionally more boisterous, but equally frequently more vulnerable art-form than that of the refined eloquence of the concert performer.
He has 32 bfs. With Mann, he learned first-hand from one of the best in the business about the sound world and distinctive vocabulary of great jazz flute playing. Steve had hoped to continue working with Herbie Mann for his album Another Life — Brazil — but tragically Mann was quickly declining in health, and managed to record only the title track of the album before passing away in July of that year.
Easy, a consummate musician, a great guy to work with, to play with, to hang out with, to go out to dinner with — just perfect. For the piano part, Steve had to look a little harder. An accomplished pianist himself a Steinway artist and having played on all of his own previous albums, Steve wanted to take the role of the producer for this disc rather than that of a player.
Who is the best person to do this job? Barta and Biegel met in when he was playing two concertos with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. Then, on discovering that Jeff and Rampal shared a French agent Anne-Marie Pochet de Valmalete the connection was then made with Bolling, and the process began. With Jeff, it was like the stars aligned, it just felt right. With veteran musicians from the Los Angeles Studios Mike Valerio bass , and Mike Shapiro drums also in the line-up, even if it were just going to be a traditional rendition of the piece in its original format it would certainly be a disc worth hearing.
However, the addition of the symphonic element is what makes this a truly unique interpretation of this seminal work. There is sophistication and careful orchestration, but what comes across most in the recording is tremendous warmth and generosity; Barta really has provided the perfect bed for this work to lie on: not too hard, not too soft — just right.
I asked Steve about the orchestration, and he had very specific reasons for setting things out as he did. But then there is a thirteen-piece string orchestra, flute, picc, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, harp and percussion creating a rich and varied orchestral timbre. At 40 minutes, it could certainly be an innovative and attractive programming choice in the years ahead.
First the jazz quartet; then the string quartet; then next morning adding the string orchestra, with the winds and brass in the afternoon, then came the lengthy mixing and mastering process. No, the amazing thing is that it just feels like a totally natural, and timely update — a beautifully crafted modernisation. Trying to find a favourite moment, or favourite track is tricky — each movement of this work has moments that are so charming, or so humorous or heartfelt that they raise a smile.
Perhaps in the same way that Early Music specialists give us a new dimension and elegance to Baroque and Classical works, with complexity of gesture and subtlety only a specialist can bring, the interpretation of a jazz master such as Hubert Laws — and the ensemble creation directed by Barta — may well have given us a truly definitive recording of this pivotal ClassicalJazz work.
Free sheet music for amateur musicians and learners!
Suite, Op.34 (Widor, Charles-Marie)