The producer of the Bill Holman documentary was concerned that the Holman band’s live performance of his Thelonious Monk arrangements would be lightly attended. Kathryn King and her crew were to film the concert, and she was hoping for enthusiastic response by a big crowd. As it turned out, she needn’t have worried. Vitello’s, a little club in the Studio City area of Los Angeles, was packed on Friday evening. The response was indeed enthusiastic, ending with a standing ovation answered by an encore. The latest edition of the band was in great form. Ms. King says that the documentary will include at least one complete performance from the evening.
The band included Holman veterans and an impressive batch of young newcomers, among them the rhythm section of pianist Max Haymer, bassist Alex Frank and Drummer Jake Reed. These were the horn sections:
There were superb improvised choruses throughout the evening, including those by Babad playing alto sax on “Thelonious,” Whitfield on “Bye Ya,” Summers with a gorgeous reading of the melody of “Ruby My Dear, Stout and Webb in a number of solos. Winner of several awards for minimalist conducting, Holman often stood in front of the band with a half smile, head cocked as if he were hearing the music for the first time. He introduced his take on “Brilliant Corners” as “the thorniest piece of the collection.” An ensemble section that might have been written by Igor Stravinsky, had he been a jazz arranger, supported the claim.
I spent a good chunk of Saturday interviewing Holman. Ms. King and director Gil Gilbert are planning interviews with a number of Holman associates and admirers. Already filmed are band members Babad, Stout and Whitfield, as well as Holman’s fellow leader Gerald Wilson and the legendary producer/engineer Bones Howe. Watch Rifftides for reports on the progress of the documentary.