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Bill Holman: Octets, 1950s

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One of my favorite West Coast jazz arrangers is Bill Holman. His pen is absolutely gorgeous for ensembles of all sizes, from quintets to big bands. While listening to Richie Kamuca albums in 1956 and '57 yesterday, I was thunderstruck by an octet session Bill played on and arranged. Which made me think about how superb all of Bill's many octet sessions are—whether he's playing in one or or arranging.

So I dipped into Tom Lord's Jazz Discography to count off Bill's octet sessions in the 1950s:
  • Kenton Presents Jazz: Bill Holman Octet (1954)
  • Duane Tatro's Jazz for Moderns (1954)
  • Lennie Niehaus, Vol. 3: The Octet #2 (1955)
  • The Compositions of Bobby Scott, Vol. 2 (1955)
  • Shorty Rogers' Clickin' With Clax (1956)
  • Shorty Rogers and the Giants (1957)
  • Richie Kamuca's Jazz Erotica (1957)
  • Art Pepper's Mucho Calor (1957)
  • Gerry Mulligan Song Book Vol. 1 (1957)
  • Mark Murphy's This Could Be the Start of Something (1958)


The one I wasn't familiar with was the octet on Richie Kamuca's Jazz Erotica. The musicians were Ed Leddy and Conte Candoli (tp), Frank Rosolino (tb), Richie Kamuca (ts) Bill Holman (bar,arr) Vince Guaraldi (p) Monty Budwig (b) Stan Levey (d). The songs are 'Way Down Yonder, Angel Eyes, Star Eyes, I Hadn't Anyone Till You, The Things We Did Last Summer and Indiana.

Bill's arrangements for octets had a harmony-rich sound that had infused his Stan Kenton charts in the mid-1950s. The arrangements on these Richie Kamuca-led tracks are spectacular, particularly 'Way Down Yonder, Angel Eyes, Star Eyes and The Things We Did Last Summer. What's more, Kamuca's solos are right on the money. A shame an entire octet album wasn't recorded.

JazzWax clips: Here's Angel Eyes...



Here's 'Way Down Yonder...



Here's Star Eyes...



And here's The Things We Did Last Summer...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

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