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Bill Holman

Bill Holman is an NEA Jazz Master

Born Willis Leonard Holman on May 21, 1927 in Olive, CA, near Santa Ana, Bill Holman took up clarinet in junior high school and tenor saxophone in high school by which time he was leading his own band. After serving in the Navy and studying engineering, he decided in the late '40s that he wanted to write big band music and studied for a while at the Westlake College of Music in Los Angeles with Dave Robertson and Dr. Alfred Sendrey. He also studied composition privately with Russ Garcia and saxaphone with Lloyd Reese.

In 1949 he played with the Ike Carpenter Band, in 1951, he was writing for Charlie Barnet, and in 1952 he began his association with Stan Kenton, for whom he wrote and played for many years. During the '50s, he was also active in the West Coast jazz movement, playing in small bands led by Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manne, and co-leading a quintet with Mel Lewis in 1958.

In the 60s, he widened his writing associations, and eventually contributed pieces to libraries and recordings of bands led by Louie Bellson, Count Basie, Terry Gibbs, Woody Herman, Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy Rich, Gerry Mulligan, Doc Severinsen and others. He has also written for such singers as Natalie Cole (her Grammy winning "Unforgettable" album, among others,) Tony Bennett, Carmen MacRae, Mel Torme, Woody Herman, Anita O'Day, Sarah Vaughn, June Christy and the Fifth Dimension. His arrangement of "Take The 'A" Train" for Severinsen's "Tonight Show Orchestra" earned Holman a Best Instrumental Grammy in 1987.

Holman started The Bill Holman Band in 1975. The band has made three albums, all for JVC: 1988's "The Bill Holman Band", 1995's "A View From The Side", for which Holman won a Best Instrumental Composition Grammy for the title track; and 1997's "Brilliant Corners: The Music of Thelonious Monk." This recording, certainly one of Holman's finest, celebrates both Monk and Holman and will no doubt renew excitement in fans about the possibilities to be found in the big band genre.

Since 1980, Holman has been increasingly active in Europe, writing, conducting and playing lengthy works for the West German Radio Orchestra in Cologne, Germany, and the Metropole Orchestra in Holland, that feature such soloists as Phil Woods, Sal Nistico and Lee Konitz.


Tags

35
Album Review

Stan Kenton: Salute!

Read "Salute!" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Stan Kenton, one of the most renowned and influential bandleaders of the twentieth century, died on August 25, 1979. Fortunately—for the sake of history in general and creative music in particular—Kenton's remarkable legacy lives on, and in a perceptive and open-minded world would endure forever. Even to this day, small but devoted groups of enthusiasts share a wish that some previously hidden array of his material might come to light, satisfiying for the moment their craving for more memorable music ...

4
Big Band Report

Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band Spectacular" 2017, Part 4-4

Read "Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band Spectacular" 2017, Part 4-4" reviewed by Simon Pilbrow


Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival Big Band Spectacular LAX Westin Hotel Los Angeles, CA May 24-28, 2017 Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 Roger Neumann's Rather Large Band Roger Neumann has led this happy band for many decades. One current member, trumpeter Jack Coan, was also a foundation member in 1975. They play a repertoire of standards and classic jazz tunes, using the ...

795
Profile

Bill Holman

Read "Bill Holman" reviewed by Marcia Hillman


Bill Holman is a man with many milestones. Known primarily for years of unique and complex arrangements, Holman's continuing and long-running career as a composer and saxophonist reaches another milestone this month when he will be awarded the title of NEA Jazz Master. A California native, Holman took up clarinet in junior high school and tenor saxophone in high school where he was leading his own band. In the late '40s, after a stint in the US Navy and engineering ...

302
Multiple Reviews

Bill Holman: Hommage & The Lost Bill Holman Charts

Read "Bill Holman: Hommage & The Lost Bill Holman Charts" reviewed by Fred Bouchard


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 do--through more thin than thick--and comes up with this bountiful ...

436
Album Review

Bill Holman Band: Hommage

Read "Hommage" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Sometimes it's a matter of perspective. Having attended the concert in May 2006 at which most of Bill Holman's latest album, Hommage, was recorded, I must acknowledge a modest level of disappointment. It didn't seem up to the maestro's usual standards, an opinion I later shared with Graham Carter, head of Jazzed Media Records.

Okay, so I got it wrong. It wasn't the first time, nor will it be the last. Perhaps I was tired and out of sorts that ...

157
Album Review

Bill Holman Band: Live

Read "Live" reviewed by Jim Santella


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 ...

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Extended Analysis

The Bill Holman Band Live

Read "The Bill Holman Band Live" reviewed by Jack Bowers


The Bill Holman Band Live Jazzed Media 2005

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 ...

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Video / DVD

17 Favorite 1950s Clips by Bill Holman

17 Favorite 1950s Clips by Bill Holman

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

As an arranger, the late Bill Holman} knew how to set 'em up and knock 'em down. His arrangements always began with a relatively simple melodic idea, which he then whipped up into a flaming meringue, holding dear to the original concept. He loved to put the reeds in play, setting them off with call-and-response harmony motifs from the horns. What mattered most was the build, the steady march toward a crescendo. To pay tribute to Bill, I've chosen 17 ...

7

Obituary

Bill Holman: (1927-2024)

Bill Holman: (1927-2024)

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Willis “Bill" Holman, a three-time Grammy-winning arranger, composer and saxophonist and one of the last-surviving orchestrators who shaped West Coast jazz in the early 1950s, died May 6 in his sleep of natural causes. He was 96. Influenced most by Gerry Mulligan's arranging and the sound of Count Basie's band, Bill began writing for Kenton just as the popular brassy orchestra was facing musician defections over Kenton's drift into a neo-classical realm. Bill's composition and arrangement of Invention for Guitar ...

1

Video / DVD

Bill Holman: Octets, 1950s

Bill Holman: Octets, 1950s

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

One of my favorite West Coast jazz arrangers is Bill Holman. His pen is absolutely gorgeous for ensembles of all sizes, from quintets to big bands. While listening to Richie Kamuca albums in 1956 and '57 yesterday, I was thunderstruck by an octet session Bill played on and arranged. Which made me think about how superb all of Bill's many octet sessions are—whether he's playing in one or or arranging. So I dipped into Tom Lord's Jazz Discography to count ...

1

Video / DVD

The Hidden Bill Holman

The Hidden Bill Holman

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Yesterday I posted on three little known powerhouse albums with arrangements by Bill Holman (above). Today, I'm turning you on to a superb album from 2012 that Tom Lord's Jazz Discography wasn't aware featured Bill's work: The Pete Christlieb & Linda Small 11-Piece Band's Tall & Small: High on U (Bosco). Christlieb (above) is a West Coast saxophonist who has played and recorded with big bands and small groups since 1965, when he bean with Si Zentner. That's his tenor ...

1

Recording

Arrangements by Bill Holman

Arrangements by Bill Holman

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

As a kid, I spent way too much time in New York record stores like Sam Goody, King Karol, Footlight, Dayton and Record Mart running my fingers through their bins. In the days before computers, I was always on the prowl for covers of jazz albums I had missed with solid guys listed in the personnel on the back. I discovered dozens of artists and LPs this way. It was always about the hunt and the promise of coming across ...

1

Interview

Bill Holman: 87 and Swinging

Bill Holman: 87 and Swinging

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

This is Bill Holman’s birthday. At 87, the great arranger shows no inclination to sit around basking in the glow of his achievements. He and his band are gearing up for a concert tomorrow night at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute’s Adventures In Big Band Jazz, a four-day celebration featuring music associated with 13 big bands. In the course of his career, Holman has written for at least half of them, including those of Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, ...

1

Crowdfunding Campaign

NEA Jazz Master Bill Holman To Be Film Subject

Source: Kathryn King

Kathryn King Media has announced a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of Charting Jazz: The Mastery of Bill Holman, a documentary about the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. The film will shine a light on the extraordinary Mr. Holman, a tenor saxophonist, bandleader, arranger and composer long deeply respected and revered by his fellow musicians but not as well known to the general public as other accomplished musical innovators of his generation. The campaign was launched on ...

Recording

Bill Holman: Jive for Five

Bill Holman: Jive for Five

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Bill Holman in the 1950s was largely a West Coast big band saxophonist and arranger. Occasionally, he broke away and led small-group recording sessions. In May and June of 1958, Bill recorded with a quintet for Hollywood's Andex Records, a Keen subsidiary founded by John and Alex Siamas in 1957. John Siamas had made his money in the aerospace industry and started a series of short-lived labels as a business hobby. The labels didn't last long. The album was Jive ...

1

TV / Film

The Bill Holman Film

The Bill Holman Film

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

The Bill Holman documentary that I helped with late last year is moving closer to reality. Its producer, Kathryn King, has launched a fund-raising drive to help her and her crew complete the filmon schedule. That is how many projects are accomplished these days when they don’t have the backing of big Hollywood investors. Few of them have that kind of support, especially when the ventures have to do with the arts. In November, I spent a few days in ...

Interview

Bill Holman on Don Bagley

Bill Holman on Don Bagley

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Don Bagley, a jazz bassist whose thick, meaty time-keeping became the heartbeat of leading West Coast big bands and ensembles of the 1950s and beyond, died July 26. He was 85. [Pictured above: Don Bagley with Julie London in Japan in May 1964] Bagley spent a good portion of the '50s and '60s in the rhythm section of Stan Kenton's most ferocious orchestras. Kenton's early admiration and appreciation of Bagley's role was evident in September 1952, when the bandleader singled ...

Ed Palermo
saxophone
Ed Puddick
arranger
James Olsen
composer / conductor

Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Salute!

Sounds of Yesteryear
2023

buy

Hommage

Jazzed Media
2007

buy

Live

Jazzed Media
2005

buy

Videos

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