Arrangements by Bill Holman


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As a kid, I spent way too much time in New York record stores like Sam Goody, King Karol, Footlight, Dayton and Record Mart running my fingers through their bins. In the days before computers, I was always on the prowl for covers of jazz albums I had missed with solid guys listed in the personnel on the back. I discovered dozens of artists and LPs this way. It was always about the hunt and the promise of coming across something amazing. [Photo above of Bill Holman in the 1950s]

Not much has changed, I'm afraid. What I love doing now, when I have the time, is going through the discographies of artists I dig the most, looking for albums everyone has overlooked. Then I tell you about them. See how devoted I am to my readers?

Yesterday I zoomed in on Bill Holman. I've been on a Bill jag lately after catching up with him by email a few weeks ago. Bill's arrangements always have an off-to-the-races feel but with modernity and heart. Most have several nifty twists. Bill never cares to arrange songs straight, preferring instead to turn them a little inside out to hold your attention without ever losing the swing. So I ran through three years of Bill's sessions at Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, which meant covering 1956, '57 and '58. I figured I knew all of Bill's arranging dates during this period, but I was wrong.

Three little-known albums jumped out and all are out of this world:

Tommy Alexander—Alexander the Great (Liberty). This album recorded in September 1956 features mostly studio guys brought together for a one-shot in Hollywood: Ed Bordenhaven, Bob Clark, Clyde Reasinger, Bobby Styles (tp) Frank Strong, Lewis McGreery, Jim Hill (tb) Dave Wells (b-tp,tb) Dick Paladino (as) Lanny Morgan (as,bar) John Bambridge, Bill Trujillo (ts) Lennie Mitchell (bar) Arnold Ross (p) Tommy Tedesco (g) Harry Babasin (b) Sal La Perche (d) Bill Holman (arr). There's a killer I Hadn't Anyone Til You, Midnight Sun, Old Devil Moon and The Song Is You here. Who was “Tommy Alexander?" Perhaps a pseudonym, since this is his only jazz album I couldn't find much on him. The band here is completely out of control. Go here.

Charlie Barnet—Lonely Street (Verve). Bill arranged two songs on this album, Blue Rose and Lemon Twist. Both are first-rate, especially the latter. Another Hollywood band from November 1956: Maynard Ferguson, Ralph Mullins, Carleton McBeath, Oliver Mitchell (tp) Leroy Anderson, Dave Wells, Bob Burgess, Richard Nash (tb) Charlie Barnet (sax,ldr) Willie Smith, Dick Paladino (as) Bill Holman (ts,arr) William Trujillo (ts) Bob Dawes (bar) Norman Pockrandt (p) Barney Kessel (g) Red Wootten (b) Alvin Stoller (d). The session's other arrangers were Billy May and Buddy Childers. Go here.

Charlie Barnet—More Charlie Barnet (Everest). Recorded in September 1958 in New York, this Barnet album was completely arranged by Bill. Further proof that Barnet's bands in the 12-inch LP era were solid swingers. Just dig the cats on this session! John Bello, Doc Severinsen, Dick Sherman, Charlie Shavers (tp) Billy Byers, Frank Rehak, Chauncey Welsh (tb) Charlie Barnet (sax,ldr) Phil Woods (as) Dick Meldonian (as,bar) Dick Hafer, Kurt Bloom (ts) Danny Bank (bar) Nat Pierce (p) Barry Galbraith (g) Milt Hinton (b) Don Lamond (d) Bill Holman (arr).Go here or here.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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