Bill Holman's varied and florescent career as composer-arranger shines on in the vanguard of a pack of scribes for Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Gerry Mulligan and Woody Herman. Playing tenor through the '50s for Kenton, Charlie Barnet and Shorty Rogers, Holman quit horn for pen in the '60s and has since proven a unique voice on his airy, anchored palette. Holman has kept his own big bands afloat as many dothrough more thin than thickand comes up with this bountiful live-from-LA date. Nudging 80, he's still top-game with Hommage, a prodigious prestidigitator's bagful of originals and covers of Strayhorn, Monk, Herman and Dameron, all preface to a starkly etched yet majestic triptych honoring Herman.
Holman manages to improve on perfection with his inimitably amiable deconstruction and rebuilding of themes and restless reworking of counterlines. Take "Raincheck," for example: trumpets state the opening phrase and saxophones immediately blow a smoke-screen of interference; back and forth the theme is bent, forged, annealed into supple structures that swing to no end. "Zamboni" builds from the ground up: brushes, jagged horn licks, counterlines; soon piano/bass lay down similar licks under one theme that opens like "Dinner For One Please, James" then other counterthemes and the rhythm keeps the riff (countered by saxophones) bouncing under impassioned solos by trumpeter Jon Dane and tenor vet Pete Christlieb. I could go on but... wail on, Bill!
For The Lost Bill Holman Charts, Carl Saunders, who's played lofty-gritty trumpet in several Holman editions since 1984, assembled a septet of Holman frontliners to play this sheaf of happy-go-lucky Holman 1981 small-band charts. Saunders plucked these time-capsule gems from tenor-player Ted Richardson's closet, where they'd dusted twennysumpin' years since he'd commissioned Holman to write them for a septet begun by himself and trumpeter Woody James. When Holman got a chance to prune his legendary 'sideways' 4-4-5-3 canvas to focus on the tight drypoint of 1-1-2-3, his imagination ran to even more delicate twists and turns, in-and-out chases, puzzle-setting and -solving. Holman calls it his "stretching" mode. Think Beethoven's string quartets. Or Mies van der Rohe's acrylic sketch models. Thus come to light 11 snappy, oblique, mind-bending, ear-reorienting charts, each with its themes masked, shuffled, reinvented and its layered ideas forming and fading in prickly, persnickety palimpsests.
Start with "Three Little Words": horns bat about staccato riffs over piano ostinatos, drum breaks, saxophones reiterate riffs as brass state the familiar four-note motif both off-center and in varying textures (legato, attacca); swift, sure solos (Saunders, trombonist Andy Martin) gather a distinct, riffish frame before the ensemble regroups with more rat-a-tat as pianist Christian Jacob nails the 'tune' in octaves. Dizzy's "Ow" goes leisurely; "Mahogany Run" turns Latin; "Primrose"'s pretty flugelhorn theme extends to the baritone; "Dearly Beloved" goes to Christlieb's tenor; "The Hook" tosses relaxed ideas around quasi-lazily; the Frankie Laine warhorse goes as Martin's own quick-waltz. Both bands have four key players in uncommon: Christlieb, Martin, Jacob and baritone saxophonist Bob Efford. This last takes a soulful smoothie on "Primrose" and doubles clarinet, brilliantly personifying Woody's tart stick on the Herman homage and "Woodchopper's Ball." Standing out among super band soloists is Jacob's elegantly darting piano: he listens, elbows in, supports ("Zamboni" riffs), jabs ("Raincheck") and in the septet he's the epoxy, the hub, the life of the party, the lights-out guy on "The Hook."
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Raincheck; Zamboni; Bemsha Swing; If You Could See Me Now; Woodchopper's Ball; Homage a Woody (A Man of Few Herds / Milwaukee Nights / The Chopper).
Personnel: Bill Holman: composer, arranger, conductor; Carl Saunders: trumpet; Pete DiSiena: trumpet; Ron Stout: trumpet; Jonathan Dane: trumpet (1, 2, 4-9); Larry Lunetta: trumpet (6-9); Bob Summers: trumpet (3): trumpet; Roger Ingram: trumpet (3; Lanny Morgan: alto, soprano sax, flute; Bruce Babad: alto, soprano sax, flute; Pete Christlieb: tenor sax; Doug Webb: tenor sax; (1, 2, 4-9); Ray Herrmann: tenor sax; (3); Bob Efford: baritone sax, clarinet (2, 6-9); Bob Carr: baritone sax (6-9); Jack Redmond: trombone (1, 2, 4-9); Dave Ryan: trombone (1, 2, 4-9); Andy Martin: trombone; John Grab: trombone (3; Craig Gosnell: bass trombone; Bob Enevoldsen: valve trombone (3); Christian Jacob: piano; Joel Hamilton: bass; Kevin Kanner: drums.
The Lost Bill Holman Charts
Tracks: Three Little Words; Ow; Mahogany Run; Primrose; Dearly Beloved; The Hook; We'll Be Together Again; All Too Soon; Doctor Deep; Hannibal; Scratch.
Personnel: Carl Saunders: trumpet, flugelhorn; Pete Christlieb: tenor sax; Bob Efford: baritone sax; Andy Martin: trombone; Christian Jacob: piano; Kevin Axt: bass; Santo Savino: drums. Guest soloist: Sam Most: flute, baritone sax.