Francy Boland, 75, a Belgian-born jazz pianist and arranger who joined with drummer Kenny Clarke to form one of Europe's leading all-star swing bands of the 1960s and early 1970s, died Aug. 12 in Geneva. He had cancer, according to the Web site jazzinbelgium.org.
The conservatory-trained Mr. Boland developed an interest in jazz through radio broadcasts during World War II. Settling in Paris in the late 1940s, he fell in with a group of acclaimed European jazz musicians, including saxophonist Bobby Jaspar. While composing and arranging for the bands of Henri Renaud and Aime Barelli, he perfected a percussive bop style of playing that was later evident in his hard-swinging work with Clarke.
Chet Baker, the American trumpeter and singer, made a maiden trip to Paris in 1955 and swept Mr. Boland into his mellow jazz quintet. Several well-received recordings followed, and Mr. Boland spent a few years in the United States working on arrangements for bandleaders Count Basie and Benny Goodman.
Back in Europe, he was the chief arranger for Kurt Edelhagen, a German swing leader, but he achieved his greatest fame after teaming with Clarke, the American bebop pioneer who settled in Paris.
They recorded in an octet and then, financed by Italian producer Gigi Campi, formed a large band of first-flight American expatriates and European jazz musicians that was credited with keeping progressive swing music alive through the rock era. The 11-year experiment lasted until 1973, when after more than 30 albums and constant touring, the musicians separated in a climate inhospitable to jazz.
Mr. Boland settled in Switzerland, where he continued writing music for European bands and visited such singers as Sarah Vaughan. Working on commission in 1984, he set to music the poems of the Polish priest who became Pope John Paul II. The release, "The Mystery of Man," featuring Vaughan with a large orchestra conducted by Lalo Schifrin, was received indifferently.
Francois Boland was born Nov. 6, 1929, in Namur, Belgium. He began playing piano at age 8 and studied at a music conservatory in Liege, Belgium.
After his work in the United States with Basie and Goodman, he met Clarke in Paris, and they recorded an album called "The Golden Eight" (1961) before forming their big band in 1962.
They attracted a peerless lineup that included bassist Jimmy Woode, trumpeter Benny Bailey, flugelhorn player Art Farmer and saxophonist Ronnie Scott. Saxophonists Stan Getz, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Phil Woods and Zoot Sims were among those who sat in with the group.
In 1963, New York Times jazz critic John S. Wilson wrote that the orchestra played in a "direct, unpretentious and superbly swinging fashion that is in the finest tradition of big band jazz." Wilson promoted the group over the years in his reviews, but that had little impact in the United States, and eventually the band found European audiences waning with the rise of rock and disco.
Away from the band, Mr. Boland was a largely conventional figure. In 1968, writer Tony Brown described him as "well-organized and un-temperamental," a tennis and photography enthusiast who "has never been caught practicing the piano or taking pictures of musicians."
"He has been known to write arrangements in the living room with the rest of the family watching television and the volume full on," Brown wrote. "Or with his son playing Beatles records."
No information about survivors was available.