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The Carl Saunders Exploration: The Lost Bill Holman Charts (2007)

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The Carl Saunders Exploration: The Lost Bill Holman Charts How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The Bill Holman charts unearthed here by the Carl Saunders Exploration weren't so much "lost as overlooked—hidden away for some two decades in a closet at the home of geologist/saxophonist Ted Richardson in Houston, Texas. On the other hand, as none of them had ever been recorded, they may accurately be described as "found.

The charts were written for Richardson's septet, which was disbanded in the mid-1980s before plans to record them could be carried out. Richardson took them home, where they stayed until he mentioned their existence to trumpeter Saunders, a member of Holman's big band since 1984. Saunders and Richardson soon agreed that the time had come to make them more widely known and set about ensuring that it was done. Looking for musicians who could apprehend Holman's music and make it sparkle, Saunders turned to the Holman band to enlist trombonist Andy Martin, baritone Bob Efford, pianist Christian Jacob and bassist Kevin Axt, added world-class tenor Pete Christlieb, versatile drummer Santo Savino from Las Vegas, and guest soloist Sam Most on flute and baritone.

What they have produced is a generous slice of contemporary small-group jazz that is so fresh, so invigorating, and swings so hard that it all but defies description. And to think we almost never heard these charts! Thank you, Carl; thank you, Ted; thank you, everyone else who took part in this stylish and thoroughly rewarding endeavor. Most of all, thank you, Bill Holman, for reaffirming your status as one of the preeminent composer/arrangers in the jazz idiom.

After neatly renovating the standard "Three Little Words, Holman places his purposeful stamp on Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow, Duke Ellington's "All Too Soon, the standards "Dearly Beloved and "We'll Be Together Again, Saunders' "The Hook (written especially for the occasion) and five of his inspired compositions. Each one is a textbook example of how such arrangements should be realized. As for the musicians, they are beyond reproach. Saunders solos brilliantly—no surprise there—as do Martin, Christlieb, Jacob, Most and Axt. Christlieb wails tenaciously on his feature, "Dearly Beloved, while Martin does the same on "We'll Be Together Again. In every instance, the front-liners are unerringly supported by the group's superlative rhythm section—Jacob, Axt and Savino.

A word of advice to big-band enthusiasts (and everyone else)—if there is one small-group recording to install on your radar screen this year, this is the one. If there were any justice (there isn't), The Lost Bill Holman Charts would earn every award to be had (including a Grammy) without breaking a sweat.

Track Listing: Three Little Words; Ow; Mahogany Run; Primrose; Dearly Beloved; The Hook; Well 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.

Record Label: MAMA Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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