Watching and listening to Bill Holman put his big band through its paces was a rare treat. The 86-year-old leader was preparing his troops for a rare public performance of his arrangements of the ten Thelonious Monk compositions in his celebrated Brilliant Corners album. Allowed to drop out of sight, never reissued, Holman’s Monk CD recorded in 1997 is one of the large-ensemble masterpieces of the second half of the twentieth century. Nor has there been anything that I know of to match it in the new millennium.
The concert tonight at Vitello’s in Los Angeles will be filmed for the documentary about Holman that I wrote about a couple of days ago. It has the makings of one of the city’s cultural events of the year, but it has received a puzzling lack of attention in the press and virtually no promotion by the clubbarely a mention on their website. Holman’s band has some of L.A.’s youngest top-flight musicians, some of its oldest and some in between. As its 16 pros navigated the demands of his arrangements this afternoon, their enthusiasm, precision and joy were as if they were all about 25. If you are in L.A., or within striking distance, you might give attendance serious consideration. I rarely find myself in a promotional mood. For this, I make an exception.
Here is one of the pieces from that 1997 album, Monk’s “Friday The 13th.” The quirky soprano saxophone work is by the late Bill Perkins.