A Bill Holman Project, A Rifftides Hiatus

Rifftides is going into partial suspension for a few days. I’m involved in a documentary about Bill Holman (pictured), the composer, bandleader and NEA Jazz Master universally regarded as one of the main-1576-thumbgreatest of all jazz arrangers. I will be in Los Angeles for a few days to interview Mr. Holman. Kathryn King Media, a veteran producer of projects related to music, is making the film. Ms. King reports that the production will be supported in part by a fundraising campaign and that information about it will appear by the end of the week in the “Search Projects” section of the Kickstarter website under the title Charting Jazz: The Mastery of Bill Holman.

This video clip summarizes a few of King Media’s projects.

Here’s Holman in 2000 conducting Germany’s WDR Big Band. The piece is his arrangement of “Just Friends,” a breathtaking example of Holman’s celebrated linear writing style, with unison sections that he crafts as if they were improvised solos. Frank Chastener is the pianist, John Goldsby the bassist, Jeff Hamilton the drummer and James Moody the guest tenor saxophone soloist. About halfway through, you’ll see a list of all of the musicians in this remarkable band.

In due time, I’ll post more about the Holman project. As the week of production moves along, I’ll try to work in a Rifftides item or two. Stay tuned.

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  1. says

    We have Bill’s arrangement of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and of his “Yesterdays” on the new Kenton Alumni Band CD that will be out in a few weeks. You are sure right when you say that he is one of the most influential jazz composers/arrangers ever!

  2. says

    This is terrific news. Bill Holman is one of the most accomplished American artists, of any genre. And I’m not just talking about the past sixty years going back to the early Kenton arrangements. I would suggest that his body of work could stand as one of the more substantial artistic creations in all of American history. He wouldn’t say that, not in a million years he wouldn’t (!)…but I would! Consider me a contributor to this important project…

  3. jeffsultanof says

    It’s about time Willis had a documentary. He has added so much to American music, not just jazz. I consider him an important composer who happens to write for jazz ensemble, and his orchestral works that I know certainly show that he should be commissioned by major symphony orchestras to write symphonic works.

    I don’t like to speak of favorite this or that, as I admire and am moved by a lot of music, movies, plays, musicals, books, etc., but Willis is in a class by himself. We often read of these great composers who lived many years before us and how they are admired and studied. Willis is living now, still creating, and has changed American music in many profound ways, in some cases in ways he is not even aware of. He is a Mozart, a Brahms. As a composer who grapples with the many ways sounds are put together, I marvel at his mastery
    and inspiration, which has only deepened as he inhabits the earth. How wonderful that he is being celebrated while he is alive!!!.

    • David says

      The most outrageous Holman composition that I’ve heard is Further Adventures for the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra (really a hybrid symphonic/jazz orchestra). While it would nice for Bill to get commissions from major symphony orchestras, there’s a problem. Commissions of works by contemporary composers tend to get a few performances and then disappear (with exceptions such as John Adams or Jennifer Higdon). Being more associated with the jazz world than the classical probably doesn’t help. Many jazz musicians, from Dick Cary to John Handy, have composed reportedly excellent symphonic works that have subsequently vanished.