Clarke Boland Big Band: At Her Majesty’s Pleasure (1969) Black Lion

Selection: Broadmoor  (Boland)

.  .  .

Order of solos:
Humble (as), Bailey (flhrn), Scott (ts), Coe (cl), Sulieman (tp), Griffin (ts), Shihab (ss)


Jimmy Woode, bass; Kenny Clare, Kenny Clarke, drums;  Francy Boland, piano; Derek Humble, alto sax; Johnny Griffin, Ronnie Scott, tenor sax; Sahib Shihab (baritone sax, soprano sax, flute; Tony Coe, tenor sax, clarinet; Erik Van Lier, Nat Peck, Ake Persson, trombone; Benny Bailey, trumpet, flugelhorn;  Derek Watkins, Idrees Sulieman, Kenny Wheeler, trumpet; recorded 5th September 1969 at Lindström Studios, Cologne, engineer, Wolfgang Hirschmann.


Album title inspired by a good wheeze of a story, involving the band’s appearances in London at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and the brief overnight incarceration of freshly arrived Johnny Griffin  in Pentonville prison, for UK tax offences.

The story seems to hold water. A Clarke Boland Big Band  performance at Ronnie Scott’s took place around six months earlier, February 28, 1969, and from the credits, Johnny Griffin made it to the stage. We know this as two CBBB albums were recorded in that  February 28 session: Volcano and Rue Chaptal.

Francy Boland, Belgian pianist, composer, and leader of the second greatest jazz big band in the world (boasting is not a crime, at least not yet) penned this suite of songs, around the names of British prisons. The album sits about in the mid-period of Clarke Boland’s  extensive discography (1962-73), and was recorded almost exactly fifty years ago, as we cross the decades into 2020 (in a few hours time).

Though I plead guilty to disliking big bands in general, the three of everything on full blast kind,I give Clarke-Boland a free pass due to the presence of so many excellent soloists including favourites Sahib Shihab and Ronnie Scott, and for managing to keep all these guys on the straight and narrow  for over a decade.

Dusty Groove  describe the Prisons album as –

 “one of the greatest long-form albums from the Clarke Boland Big Band – a sophisticated suite that not only shows off the writing ability of Francy Boland, but also demonstrates the group’s ability to swing like a mofo…filled with rich colors and tones that go far beyond the earlier modes of the group… A good part of the album’s success comes from the strength of the soloists ”


(DG then pads out the remaining review space by listing all the soloists, and then listing all the track titles. Duh! Someone paid by the wordcount?)

Strong soloists, they are not far wrong! My choice, “Broadmoor” ( our highest security psychiatric hospital) offers seven soloists, in the order listed. This also offers you a masterclass in comparing and contrasting the tonality of different  reeds, and the approach of different players, so it is educational as well as enjoyable, win win. The ensemble sections are a masterclass in composition and arrangements, and indeed, it swings like a mofo.

Vinyl: BLP 30109

Many CBBB recordings were released on the German  BASF/MPS label , but Her Majesty’s Pleasure  found its way onto Alan Bates then fairly new British label specialising in jazz, Black Lion, which had a distribution deal with Polydor, hence some of the alternative versions.

The UK pressing plant is not immediately obvious, not one of the majors, but a solid presentation, based on the always excellent sound recording of the Gigi Campi scene/ Cologne studios.

A Case Of Mistaken Identity: it wasn’t me Guv’nor!                                                      Alternative covers and titles from Polydor: At Her Majesty’s Pleasure, and Black Lion: Doing Time.  “OK it’s a fair cop, I done it, I’ll come quietly. Umm…anyone got a light?”

READER ADVISORY Liner Notes, contains lengthy sentences.

Collector’s Corner

If the Clarke Boland Big Band was, as this title modestly asserts, the Second Greatest Jazz Big Band In The World, I think we can safely say CBBB was Europe’s greatest. I’ll leave others to argue who was the World’s Greatest. (The Duke?)

It is funny how this collecting and writing thing works. Connecting with the Johnny Griffin-sent to-Pentonville  anecdote,  I was reminded that I actually had both albums recorded at that 1969 CBBB Ronnie Scott’s session: Volcano and Rue Chaptal.  Suddenly, they fell into context, the line up of CBBB European artists, and visiting Americans. . You discover connections you had not been aware of in what you already own, to revisit and rediscover with new sense of purpose.

My copy of this album was a municipal record library copy, for which the overdue return fine would be humungous but for the fact the library, like many, had closed down and sold off its stock of LPs.  Various editions of this record can be found easily, for just a few pounds, which for such a great recording is, frankly, criminal. 


In personal terms, this last year has been particularly interesting, selectively pushing into the boundaries: soul-jazz organ, flute, now big band. No sign of vocals yet, but who knows? Not likely.  Happy New Year to LJC visitors and readers, jazz and vinyl lovers: this is OUR time. Much much more to come in the new year, hope you will join me on the journey. To where exactly, right now,  I have no idea.

I’m off to open a really interesting bottle of Viognier – Domaine Mouton, Collines Rhodaniennes 2017.  Yes, the Family Sheep.  I may see the New Year in, though I seem to have cultivated the knack of missing it. You may see it in first.


Harry M. caught Clarke-Boland Big Band at Ronnie Scott’s, October 1969. Kindly sent in his photos. What a nice man.

I love the way the musicians are turned out, to make music, formally dressed, such class.  What stands out is their personality, music and craftsmanship.

I think I spy the two drummers, Kenny Clarke behind far left, and Kenny Clare second row centre.

Harry adds: personnel in the band photo is back row Kenny Clarke and Kenny Clare on drums, Idrees Sulieman, Derek Watkins, and Benny Bailey on trumpets (Kenny Wheeler out of shot), second row Erik Van Lier and Ake Persson on trombones (Nat Peck out of shot), front row (Francy Boland out of shot) Jimmy Woode on bass, Tony Coe and Johnny Griffin on tenors and Derek Humble on alto (Ronnie Scott and Sahib Shihab out of shot).

Photos courtesy of Harry M

Gosh. that must have been so exciting, CBBB, 1969, in black and white,  thanks Harry!

Another fine photo of the Clarke Boland Big Band turns up online, this time pictured in Cologne, but also fittingly in black and white. Reading front row right to left, Sahib Shihab, next to Ronnie Scott. From here on I’m guessing according to the size of their instrument (snigger), Derek Humble, alto sax, then one of the two tenors will be Carl Drevo, neither of the two look like Zoot Sims, as the byline claims.

A tribute quote from Willis Conover, jazz producer, writer, and broadcaster on the Voice of America for over forty years Notes to the CBBB album  “Jazz Is Universal”

“The presence in the Clarke-Boland band of thirteen personalities from seven nations, playing in Germany for an Italian producer — and, now, being released for Americana by a Turkish impresario — is all the evidence anyone needs. As a matter of fact, I don’t need the evidence; at the Voice of America, I have the making of the world’s most representative stamp collection. In fact, the beat evidence anyone could want is the swinging record inside this jacket . Listening to it is like looking glumly in a mirror and seeing someone else, smiling back.”

Willis Conover

7 thoughts on “Clarke Boland Big Band: At Her Majesty’s Pleasure (1969) Black Lion

  1. Hello from New York, Happy New Year! and hope your holiday season was a happy one!

    What a way to start January! Reviewing/ discussing a Clark Boland Big Band album! This band was heavy and tight, with great writing and great players. Simply a superlative, excellent musical organization. I had this album (before the great record sale a few years back) and a couple of others and enjoyed it very much!.

    I still have on CD two Clark Boland band albums: 1) “Now Hear Our Meanin'” reissued/ published 2002; on the Collectibles label (U.S.A.) a part of Sony Music (read: “behemouth”) Catalog # Col 7497 /SONY A 55061 Liner notes from the original release by Tahir Hakki Bar code: 0 90431 74972 2

    2) “Handle With Care”; label: Koch/Jazz; Produced Under License from Atlantic Recording Corp. Manufactured by Rhino Entertainment catalog # KOC-CD-8534; HDCD Original front cover reproduced. Published 1964 & 2000 Original liner notes by: Ralph J. Gleason Bar code: 0 99923 85342 8

    Hope this info helps you with research! Best Wishes and Cheers, “Ed” Edward Fenning from New York actually out in Suffolk County Long Island

  2. Happy New Year LJC, always a welcome read. I’ve loved all these CBBB lps that I have heard, but there is also an interesting side story I have told when selling them. Polydor is a label that had a unique vinyl formulation (in the late 60s possibly early 70s) that reacted to the poly lined inners the records came with, sometimes referred to as bag rash. It appears as a coating on the playing surfaces and causes a swishing sound whilst playing. I have never been able to remove it. On that basis I have a mixed set of labels of this great band, just to get playable ones. I joked in a listing once that a Polydor that the owner mistakenly put in the wrong inner sleeve all those years back is the definition of a rare record. How was the Viognier?. I’ve never had one I’ve preferred to a half decent Occitan Chardonnay.

    • “Bag rash” is a good description. Polythene transfer on vinyl from liners is real nasty. It can’t be cleaned off, but I figure might transfer onto the stylus, so banished here. Polydor is one of those British labels I avoid, they rarely sound any good.

      The Viognier was from the slopes of the Northern Rhone, effectively, close to Condrieu. Viognier a very fussy grape, magnificent in the right hands from the right place, which is the slopes of the Rhone. Though Viognier is grown in Southern France, and nowadays seen from the New World, they never come close. If you ever tire of Chardonnay, it is a thing of beauty.

      • Thanks for the update on the Viognier. I will try a Rhone one, like you I prefer white wines, but not as exclusively as you. As the labels state Transatlantic, in reply to your “The UK pressing plant is not immediately obvious”, I am fairly sure these are Pye pressings, based on my other transatlantics (Pentangle and related).

  3. Yes, have a happy new year to you LJC. And a huge congratulation and big thanks for your passionate work (I’m addict). Cheers.

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