Recorded at last year's four-day big band tribute to Maynard Ferguson in Los Angeles, this one-hour session comes straight from the hip. Bill Holman, who always communicates with his audience on several levels, introduces each piece and is sure to recognize each of his band's soloists. Make no mistake about it: they're some of the best in the business. It takes three important qualities to run a highly successful big band like Holman's: top-notch musical arrangements, top-of-the-line improvising soloists, and a general swing that pervades the ensemble's mood. Both right-brain and left-brain activities are satisfied in the listener's mind since Holman's band gels together so well.
As the concert was recorded in its entirety, you get the feeling that you're there in the audience, soaking up every bar of every piece and sharing in the fun. Holman's soloists enjoy stretching out over his creative work, and the band produces a cohesive picture that allows his intended colors and shades to seep through clearly. No one element is given preferential treatment. All the various aspects of a big band's sound combine to form a whole product that succeeds because of the balance.
Holman's "Press One" offers a particularly personal look at what is going on. With this driving piece, you can feel the walking bass, the sizzling ride cymbal, the section harmony, and the conversational approach to a big band's opposing forces at work. The trumpets line up majestically to soar sky-high, the saxophones soothe with waves of cotton, and the trombones punctuate along the dotted line. The rhythmic patterns change often, but the piece's overall characteristic falls into place quite naturally. Trombonist Andy Martin offers a burly solo that rolls melodically over a swinging backdrop, trumpeter Bob Summers provides a bright escapade that energizes everyone in the room, and Doug Webb adds a crystal-clear tenor solo that lights the band's fuse. They're off on an adventure that proves both intellectually satisfying and aesthetically pleasing. Throughout the piece, Holman's arrangement carries a pulsing foundation that keeps his linear theme going strong; "Press One" centers on the telephone menus and limited choices that we're often faced with while going about our daily business.
Highly recommended, this album rates five stars.
Track Listing: Woodrow; A Day in the Life; Bary Me Not; Donna Lee; Blue Daniel; Press One; The Bebop Love Song; Zoot 'n' Al.
Personnel: Bill Holman: leader; Carl Saunders, Pete DiSiena, Ron Stout, Bob Summers: trumpet; Jack
Redmond, Bob Enevoldsen, Andy Martin, Craig Gosnell: trombone; Lanny Morgan, Bruce
Babad: alto saxophone; Doug Webb, Ray Herrmann: tenor saxophone; Bob Efford: baritone
saxophone; Christian Jacob: piano; Joel Hamilton: bass; Kevin Kanner: drums.