Congratulations, Bill Holman

The great (term used advisedly) arranger and bandleader Bill Holman celebrated his 85th birthday this week. Steve Cerra posted on his Jazz Profiles blog a repeat of the Holman profile he put together on another occasion. It includes a brilliant assessment of Holman’s work by André Previn, photographs, and a selection of liner notes I have contributed to Holman albums over the years. To see Steve’s post, go here and scroll down the left column until you come to the classic John Reeves photograph of Willis, chin in hand, smiling.

For more on Holman and his music, see this post from the Rifftides archive.

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  1. David says

    Previn’s essay from 1958 is possibly dated by the comment that “his arrangements are relatively easy to play. Everything lies well on the horns, a fact for which Bill is looked upon with gratitude by the playing musicians.” Within the last few years I remember reading an article in which members of Holman’s band were said to refer to their rehearsals as “the torture chamber.”

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Maybe so, but there are lists of subs hoping to be called for Holman’s weekly L.A. rehearsals.

  2. says

    I am the first still-living musician, who was allowed to attend Berklee School of Music, after winning a Down Beat Hall of Fame contest with full schollarship. Played jazz with Gustav Brom big band in Czechoslovakia and it was still rather difficult to leave, but my family was held hostage and also had some help from US Embassy and later my close friend (RIP), Wills Conover of VOA. Year was 1964!

    Spent few years in Boston, learned English, played as a house player in Jazz Workshop with many solo musicians who came without a rhythm section (ours was Ray Santisi and Alan Dawson). In 2 years it was a variety of famous players and eventually it lead to invitation to play Monterey Jazz Festival 1968 with Earl Fatha Hines, Dizzy and many others.

    Moved to LA almost immediatelly, worked some studios, and while living in Hollywood got my nerve up and called my favourite arranger Bill Holman, asking if I could get some lessons. He was very kind, invited me to his house and we listened to my recordings from Czechoslovakia, the highlight was a quarter-tone trumpet invented by Jaromir Hnilicka, who is 80 and still plays. I wrote the arrangements. Don Ellis asked for permission to use it in some of his recordings.

    Never forget Bill’s look and his words: “What do you want me to teach you?”

    Just want to wish him happy birthday and many more. He might remember—Ray McKinley thought I was Jake Hanna’s brother, because we looked very much a like. Jake and I later played games with Merv Griffin, like switching places when I was accompanying a singer on the show.

    HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY BILL and many more filled with swinging music. BTW: later on, my sensei from my early years was Ray Brown, who later became a close friend and even let me use his wonderful big bass when we did the show at Caesar’s (so I did not have to drag mine—his words. RIP, I miss him.)