Live (Jazzed Media)

The Bill Holman Band

Released June 21, 2005

Grammy Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album 2006




“This is the first album since 1997 by The Bill Holman Band. Why there was so long an interregnum between recordings by an essential cultural institution requires a discussion of conditions in the music industry and the society at large. You will not find that discussion here. Let us simply shout hooray, and praise impresario Ken Poston for including the band in one of his periodic jazz events, and Graham Carter of Jazzed Media for capturing the performance.
Typical of how a slightly older generation of arrangers regards Holman is something the late Ralph Burns told me about Willis’s writing: “It’s pure jazz, but he writes everything very classically. It’s linear and simple and clear.” From one younger arranger, Bill Kirchner: “His linear concepts are among the most important innovations ever used in a jazz orchestra,” and another, Don Sebesky: “I hear nothing, past or present, that comes close to (his writing) because he combines the objective and subjective parts of music into a seamless whole.” From a contemporary, Bob Brookmeyer: “Of all the other peoples’ music I’ve played in my life, I’d rather play Bill Holman’s. He makes it such a delight. It’s so naturally well crafted that it speaks when you play it.”
Some of the members of the 2004 edition of the band are new since Holman’s last recording, but the musicianship and camaraderie are on the same high plane. In the course of the concert recording, Willis introduces the band and identifies the soloists. To shanghai the nearest applicable cliché, the music speaks for itself.”

Doug Ramsey

Track Listing:

1. Introduction 0:39

2. Woodrow (Bill Holman) 7:05

3. A Day in the Life (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 7:44

4. Bary Ne Not (Bill Holman) 5:52

5. Band Introductions 1:12

6. Donna Lee (Charlie Parker) 7:31

7. Blue Daniel (Frank Rosolino) 7:46

8. Press One (Bill Holman) 7:14

9. The Behop Love Song (Bill Holman) 9:21

10. Zoot ‘N’ Al (Bill Holman) 6:51


Bill Holman: conductor Carl Saunders: trumpet
Pete DiSiena: trumpet
Ron Stout: trumpet
Bob Summers: trumpet
Jack Redmond: trombone
Bob Endevoldsen: trombone
Andy Martin: trombone
Craig Gosnell: trombone
Lanny Morgan: saxophone
Bruce Babad: saxophone
Doug Webb: saxophone
Ray Hermann: saxophone
Bob Efford: saxophone
Christian Jacob: piano
Joel Hamilton: bass
Kevin Kanner: drums

Recorded September 30, 2004, at LAX Four Points Sheraton Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

Producer: Graham Carter

Recorded by Tim Pinch

Mixed and mastered by Rod Nicas Cover

Photography by Stuart Alden


Big band album of the year? It’s too early to say, but the first-ever live recording by the superlative Bill Holman Band has earned front-runner status for that honor and will surely be hard to trump. Holman, an acknowledged master in the realm of writing and arranging for large ensembles, already has one Grammy Award in the trophy case (for Brilliant Corners, his ingenious adaptation of the music of Thelonious Monk), and could soon have another if NARAS members lay aside any unreasonable biases and vote with their ears.

The Holman Band was taped last September during Stratospheric, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute’s four-day homage to high-note trumpet monarch Maynard Ferguson. I was among those in the audience that day, and the album I’m savoring as this is being written easily transcends my memory of the performance. I knew it was good, but not that good. When parceling out praise, the hardest task is to decide where to begin.

Let’s start with the band itself, as without it there would be no music to assess. To begin with, Holman’s charts, which frequently call upon the various sections to perform implausible acrobatics, are no mere stroll in the park. They’re not written for novices, nor does Holman employ any. Faced with his incredibly demanding arrangements, the ensemble cruises through them without the least trace of wariness or indecision. Brass and reeds are razor-sharp, the rhythm section never less than indispensable. Even more to the point, everyone swings, on every number and at every tempo. Beyond his role as a team player, each member of Holman’s band is a sharp and resourceful improviser. How good are they? Well, the amazing Carl Saunders is in the trumpet section, and he doesn’t solo once! With Bob Summers and Ron Stout on either side of him, he doesn’t have to, and can focus on leading the others, which he does with alacrity and style. Soloists aren’t listed in the booklet, but that’s unnecessary, as Holman identifies them clearly, sometimes more than once.

Holman composed five of the eight selections, and each one is a gem-like showpiece, as are his splendid arrangements of Lennon / McCartney’s “A Day in the Life, Bird’s “Donna Lee and Frank Rosolino’s “Blue Daniel. “Donna Lee and “Zoot ‘n Al, Holman’s snappy salute to the peerless Sims / Cohn tenor tandem, are the obligatory chops-busters, but even when easing back on the throttle, as on “Blue Daniel, “Bebop Love Song or “Woodrow, his affectionate bow to Woody Herman, Holman makes certain the band toes the mark by interspersing the strenuous arpeggios and split-second contrapuntal exchanges that are the hallmark of his elaborate modus operandi.

“Woodrow, closely bound to Herman’s longtime theme, “Blue Flame, is a snappy shuffle that accommodates swaggering solos by Summers, pianist Christian Jacob and tenor Ray Herrmann who is featured again, with trombonist Andy Martin, on the breezy “Day in the Life. Another Holman original, the lively and aptly named “Bary Me Not, is a showcase for baritone saxophonist Bob Efford, while the fleet and lovely “Donna Lee is further enhanced by Jacob, tenor Doug Webb and valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen who plays with a happy spirit reminiscent of Cy Touff, the irrepressible bass trumpeter in Herman’s Third Herd.

Stout and alto Bruce Babad help cheer up “Blue Daniel, and Martin, Summers and Webb share the stage on the playful “Press One, written by Holman to express his frustration with the catch-all directive given to callers by today’s automated phone systems. The soulful “Bebop Love Song, with ad-libs to match by Webb, Enevoldsen and bassist Joel Hamilton, leads to the high-octane finale on which Webb and Herrmann, sitting in admirably for Zoot and Al (or Al and Zoot), scamper through and around the changes with reckless abandon while drummer Kevin Kanner shows why Holman chose him to be the band’s resident bombardier, succeeding such renowned timekeepers as Mel Lewis, Jeff Hamilton and Bob Leatherbarrow. What more can be said? Not much. There are times when one’s best course is merely to sit back, unwind and enjoy the ride, and this is one of them. Close your eyes and let the magical Bill Holman Band cast its hypnotic spell. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Jack Bowers (All About Jazz)