Claude Bolling is one the most famous French musicians in the world. Although his passion is jazz, he is also an accomplished composer of pop music and has written numerous film scores. He is quite an accomplished player of classic ragtime and stride piano as well.
While born in Cannes on April 10, 1930, Claude Bolling has always lived in Paris. During the German occupation of France he received musical training from Marie-Louise “Bob” Hake, pianist, trumpet player and drummer in one of the many female orchestras à la mode in the inter-war period.
Claude Bolling was introduced to the magic world of jazz by a schoolmate friend and became enamored with the music of Thomas Fats Waller. At just 15 years old he gained recognition and high marks at an amateur contest organized by Jazz Hot and Hot Club from France in Paris. He soon became interested in the music of several other masters of the piano like Willie “The Lion” Smith and Erroll Garner. Most influential to young Bolling was one of the early pioneers of the stride style of piano playing, who went on to lead a successful big band during the Swing Era, the great Earl “Fatha” Hines.
Claude Bolling organized his first band at 16 and cut his first records at 18. After serving in the French military, where he played trombone and percussion, Bolling determined to make jazz his profession and he began playing in bustling French jazz establishments. Soon he was performing and recording with many famous American jazzmen who passed through France (Rex Stewart 1948-9; Roy Eldridge 1951, 1961; Don Byas 1951; Lionel Hampton 1953, 1954, 1956; Coleman Hawkins 1961; Albert Nicholas 1955; Cat Anderson 1964) and the name Claude Bolling became synonymous with the word jazz in Paris.