Bill Holman: Jive for Five


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Bill Holman in the 1950s was largely a West Coast big band saxophonist and arranger. Occasionally, he broke away and led small-group recording sessions. In May and June of 1958, Bill recorded with a quintet for Hollywood's Andex Records, a Keen subsidiary founded by John and Alex Siamas in 1957. John Siamas had made his money in the aerospace industry and started a series of short-lived labels as a business hobby. The labels didn't last long.

The album was Jive for Five and featured Lee Katzman (tp), Bill Holman (ts, bar), Jimmy Rowles (p), Wilfred Middlebrooks (b) and Mel Lewis (d). What makes this album special are the tasteful and subtle instrumental personalities of each player and the fact that we can hear them all clearly. Here, Bill is out in the open and his sound and solos are distinct, which isn't often the case on his band dates. You get to fully appreciate Bill's big, confident, smokey tone and how artfully he navigates on solos.

Katzman [above] isn't especially well known by East Coast jazz fans but he was a huge, tangy presence in Stan Kenton's orchestra of the 1950s and on this date blows a soft-hot horn. He was a member of the Baja Marimba Band in the '60s died last August. Rowles and Lewis add a lushness and grace to the tracks while Middlebrooks was only on 54 sessions from 1950 to 1992, recording frequently with Ella Fitzgerald in the '50s and pianist Paul Smith and drummer Frank Capp on Smith's leadership dates in the '60s and beyond. He died in 2008 at age 74.

On each of the six tracks, the smokey heat of Bill and Katzman backed by the breezy rhythm section makes for engaging playing that captures your ear. Bill not only knew just what to play, he also knew who to assemble for a perfect album.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find the impossibly beautiful Jive for Five for $5.94 here.

JazzWax clips: Here's Bill and the group on Jive for Five...

Here's Lee Katzman on the Merv Griffin Band...

And here's Kathryn King's Kickstarter drive to raise funds on behalf of a documentary on Bill's career. Fingers crossed.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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