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In the 1950s, during the heyday of the cellars of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Claude Bolling very often performed, in small groups, pieces by his master Duke Ellington.

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In the audience, in the front row, a very attentive fan, crazy about jazz, came very regularly. He was then an atomic engineer in Saclay and musical director of a record company.

His name: Frank Ténot. One day he said to Claude Bolling: "How would you like to start a large orchestra to play Ellington's music?"

No need to imagine the answer ...!

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A few orchestration and counterpoint lessons taken with André Hodeir, and here Claude set off to write the arrangements for C-Jam Blues, Caravane, Solitude, Drop me off in Harlem and a medley of 33 quotes from Duke themes


Claude had found the ideal conditions to bring together jazzmen of the highest level and the recordings took place in the spring of 1956. The orchestra was then made up of Robert FAssin, Fred Gérard, Roger Guerin, Henri Van Haeke, Fernand Verstraete (tp), Claude Gusset,

André Paquinet, Benny Vasseur, Gaby Vilain (tb) Gérard Badini (cl) Jo Hrasko, René "Mickey" Nicolas (ace, cl) Pierre Gossez, Marcel Hrasko (ts) Armand Migiani (bars) Pierre Michelot (b) Arthur Motta ( d).

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It was a success crowned by the Grand Prix of the Académie du Disque Français. Frank Ténor, happy and proud, suggested that Claude continue the adventure. The following recordings will be a tribute to Django Reinhardt, music from New Orleans (first stereo recording) and original compositions.

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The Big Band will also participate, in 1958, with a string orchestra of 50 musicians,

to the ballet in 3 acts by Françoise Sagan " Le Rendez-Vous Manqué ".

At the very beginning of the 70s, the orchestra will be on the sets of the shows of Maritie and Gilbert Carpentier "Deux sur la 2" and it is on the occasion of one of these shows for which Claude had composed an original piece Just Play , that the idea occurred to him to compose more.

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From then on, the Big Band will add to its repertoire original compositions of its leader and will be called the "Show-Biz Band".

A concert at the Maison de Radio France, under the aegis of André Francis, will launch a series of 33 rpm recordings:

Swing Session (Charles Cros Academy Grand Prize) - Jazz Party - Keep Swingin '- Hot Sounds - Just for Fun, and the kickoff of concerts and tours that continue to this day.


In 1976, the City of Nice proposed to Claude, to bring together the Big Band and a symphony orchestra, at the Arènes de Cimiez. Claude then develops his Jazz Concerto and offers Roberto Benzi to take charge of the concert.

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On January 22, 1979, as part of the MIDEM in Cannes, the orchestra is engaged for a gala concert with prestigious guests: Carmen McRae, Joe Williams,

Thad Jones and Cat Anderson.

The concert is recorded live at 8:30 p.m., after a marathon rehearsal that lasted from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the same day.


From the 80s, the name "show biz" having a pejorative connotation, the orchestra will simply become the Claude Bolling Big Band and its logo will be signed by the musician designer Michel Quéraud, known as "Boss".

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From 1985, the Hôtel Méridien-Etoile in Paris returned to the tradition of the famous Jazz-Brunchs which made the heyday of New York with Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington or Charles Barnet.

The Claude Bolling Big Band will play there every Sunday of the autumn-winter season, or alternately with other groups, until the year 2000.

It was the meeting place for "Tout Paris" and swing fans.

There are still very many jazz lovers today who remember and evoke these Jazz-Brunchs .

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In 1989, to celebrate the bi-centenary of the French Revolution, the Big Band was invited to the United States, New York and Sun Valley.

The success is such that he will return two years later for a real two-week tour through the United States.

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International tours will follow one another, from the USA to South Korea, via Colombia, Mexico or Thailand ...

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In the 80s and 90s, the Big Band will also be the official orchestra of the 7 d'Or , Molières or Césars

In 1986, the Big Band with Guy Marchand,

will appear in Roger Hanin's film La Rumba.

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It will also be in 1997, in

Chances or Coincidences of Claude Lelouc.

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1994 celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Liberation. The orchestra is ready, packaged, to play the music that came with our liberators.

The program "The Victory Concert - Echoes of 1944/45" will be performed for the first time at the Caen Memorial in March, then recorded at the Dejazet Theater (is it a coincidence?) On June 5 and 6.

The summit will be reached on August 25, 1994, place la Concorde in Paris, the day of celebration of the Liberation of the capital, where the Big Band performed in front of a crowd of 300,000 people. Fortunately, the directors of the evening did not content themselves with broadcasting the images on the big screens of the square, but had the good idea to press the "record" button!

December 1991 will see a meeting at the top between a benchmark Big Band and a "historical monster": Stéphane Grappelli.

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The program for which Claude composes two original titles Stéphane and De Partout et d'Ailleurs will be recorded on disc, on video, and performed in concert with Stéphane Grappelli himself.

then with Didier Lockwood or Fiona Monbet.


In 1995, Claude Bolling and Jérôme Savary decided to recreate on stage, at the Palais de Chaillot, the play by Duke Ellington

A Drum is a Woman .

Claude transcribed Duke's record, Robinson Savary (son of Jerome) found documents at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, and, with the "blessing" of Mercer Ellington, the piece will be performed from March 21 to 31, 1996 and extended until April 6.

Director: Jérôme Savary

vocal: Laïka Fatien - Jeffery Smith -

Francine Romain (Ms. Zajj)

with Manu Dibango in the role of the narrator

From 2001, no more Jazz-Brunch at Le Méridien-Etoile, but a new event for fans:

Le Petit Journal Montparnasse.

Since 1985 - the year of its creation by André Damon - the orchestra has performed there occasionally. From now on, it is every month that the Claude Bolling Big Band will play a different program there.

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The Meridien-Etoile is not forgotten, however. The orchestra will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Jazz Club Lionel Hampton throughout a week in November 2005 and Jean-Pierre Vignola (in charge of the jazz club) will be at the initiative of the Big Band Jubilee

in January 2006, then the launch concert of the autobiography book written with Jean-Pierre Daubresse

Bolling Story

In 2010, “the chef” Claude Bolling is in the spotlight, for his 80th birthday.

Dominique Burucoa -director of the National Stage of Bayonne- concocts a Big Band tour

which ends in Bayonne, on D-Day, April 10

Claude Bolling stopped performing on stage in June 2014.

He entrusted the piano to Philippe Milanta and handed over the conduct of the orchestra to Vincent Cordelette.

Now, he enjoys listening to "his guys" (as he calls them).

The orchestra, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016, continues its journey and perpetuates the musical work of its "chief-founder".

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