In some ways, it must seem like the good old days to Bill Holman.
In the early '50s, when he was working for Stan Kenton as a composer, arranger and tenor saxophonist, Holman spent a lot of time on the road. This year could be like deja vu .
Holman just returned from a week in Stuttgart, West Germany, where he led a big band in an hourlong concert/recording for the South German Radio Network. The program consisted of arrangements of standards and original compositions, most by Holman but others by Angeleno tenor man Don Menza, who was a guest soloist. "Don brought a couple of charts and I wrote three fairly long ones, one featuring him called 'Testa Rossa,' which means 'Red Head' in Italian."
The hirsute jazzman, whose latest release is "The Bill Holman Band" (JVC), stays in town for a flash, working Monday with his big band at the Grand Avenue Bar, heads to Copenhagen toward the end of June for a week of performances, then flies back to the States to teach a three-week post-grad arranger/composer workshop at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
He'll be teaching there with noted arranger/composer Manny Albam, "whom I met back in the days with Stan, when we'd play New York a lot," Holman said. "I really got to know him when Stan pulled me off the band, sent me to the Forest Hotel (in Manhattan) and had me write two charts on 'What's New?' and 'I've Got You Under My Skin.' I wrote then like I write now, basically with the gun of the deadline pointing at my head."
Another 1990 European jaunt will be to Cologne, West Germany, in September, where Holman has provided originals and uniquely arranged standard material for a concert by the West German Radio Network band since 1982. "It's kind of like having a patron that's a radio network instead of a king," he laughed.
Not everything Holman concocts is for jazz band. For example, there was a wild number he wrote for Stan Getz that was commissioned by and premiered with the New American Orchestra a few years ago, and there's a brand-new piece for Doc Severinsen. "It's called 'Crossover,' and it's for Doc to conduct, rather than play on, when he appears with good medium-city orchestras in places like Phoenix," where the piece was recently debuted.
" 'Crossover' is about eight minutes long, with a lot of jazz licks in it," Holman said. "I haven't heard it and Doc hasn't called me to tell me if it's any good."
Chances are Severinsen will like it. He has been steadily commissioning Holman arrangements for "The Tonight Show" Orchestra for many years. One of them, a chart on Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" won Holman a 1985 Grammy for best instrumental arrangement."
Another fan of Holman's is vibist Terry Gibbs, whose Dream Big Band will be performing several Holman charts in its free concert Sunday at Warner Center in Woodland Hills at 5:30 p.m. The Dream Band is a resurrection of a Gibbs big band that worked Los Angeles from 1959-62. Holman also played tenor sax in the ensemble and can be heard on some of the group's recently rediscovered recordings that have been issued on the Contemporary label.
"That was a pretty important scene, and it was a fun thing," Holman said of the Gibbs band. "I remember working the Seville, the first club we worked, which was on Santa Monica Boulevard near Crescent Heights. That was great. The place was packed every night and we were there five, six nights a week. It was unheard of for a local band."
Some of the charts the Gibbs band played were also recorded by Holman on 1959's "In a Jazz Orbit," currently available as an imported CD on the VSOP label.
TOP 10 JAZZ LPs
1. Deep in the Shed--Marcus Roberts
2. Remembrance--The Harper Brothers
3. Time on My Hands--John Scofield
4. Parallel Realities--Jack DeJohnette
5. Stolen Moments--Lee Ritenour
6. Reunion--Gary Burton
7. Where Were You?--Joey DeFrancesco
8. Falling In Love With Jazz--Sonny Rollins
9. Native Heart--Tony Williams
10. For You Only--Marlon Jordan