Bill Holman: 87 And Swinging

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 6a00e008dca1f088340120a5cbe5ea970b-250wiAngeles 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, Maynard Ferguson and Terry Gibbs, not to overlook Count Basie and Gerry Mulligan. I haven’t seen a tune list for his concert, but if the audience is lucky, it will hear his transformation of “Just Friends,” which influenced dozens of arrangers who have followed in his wake.

Rifftides has presented video of Holman conducting the piece before and no doubt will again. It is an arrangement that reveals more of itself upon repeated hearings. This finds Holman in 2000 with the WDR Big Band in Germany. Pianist Frank Chastenier plays the opening solo. Jeff Hamilton is the drummer, John Goldsby the bassist. There’s a bonus—the late James Moody as the guest tenor saxophone soloist.

Independent producer Kathryn King reports that work continues on the Holman documentary she and her crew began filming last fall. She says that the project is about to go into a new round of fund raising. Stay tuned.

Happy birthday, Willis.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. says

    Love the JF chart, heard it played by the Boston College Band at the Elmhurst College jazz fest a few years ago. For a while it was my going-to-bed music treat.

    Oh, how I wanted to be at Poston’s gig this weekend. Some really fabulous music from the past and present. Shorty (always great stuff) Bob Florence. Holman, Mulligan’s music from the 60’s, Clark-Boland fantastic music from Europe in the 60’s and topping it off with Woody’s great band. Oh, how can we forget the Terry Gibbs band driven by the GREAT Mel lewis. Wish it could be recorded and sold to those unable to attend.

  2. dick vartanian says

    This is not just an arrangement, it’s treasure! What a band !! Ask Bill to stick around for a while longer.. We need more like this.

  3. Charlton Price says

    This recording belongs in the High Renaissance of big band jazz. Those long unison lines are a Holman trademark — where will it go next? how did he figure out how to do it that way? Precision and power of the players. The treat of Moody. Jeff Hamilton’s vigor, taste and on-top-of-the-beat attentiveness puts him in the premier rank of big-band drummers, certainly of today and maybe of big-band history. Please, please Kathryn King, include this in the forthcoming film, which I’m confident eventually will get enough support and get made.

  4. al kaye says

    Bill holman’s arrangements of T Monk’s compositions are as good as it gets—and the performances on that album are great also.

  5. says

    Whoa!!! Thanks for this, Doug, and Happy BD to the timeless Mr. Bill Holman. What a band — being propelled by the great Jeff Hamilton. Can’t go wrong there!!

  6. Don Conner says

    Great video Doug! My first time hearing it and Moody is a delight. Don’t forget. Holman was a damn good Pres-inspired tenor man as well.