The sometimes quirky but always entertaining music of jazz composer and arranger Bill Holman will be the theme as the Temple Jazz Orchestra presents “A Tribute to Bill Holman” Saturday evening at Temple College.
Born in Olive, Calif., in 1927, Holman played tenor sax in big bands, notably Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton’s groups, but, as Andre Previn said, “His true instrument is the orchestra, and he plays it with musicianship, honesty and brilliance.”
Holman’s first recorded composition was “Invention for Guitar and Trumpet” for the Kenton band on Capitol Records.
Holman is perhaps best described as a “musicians’ musician” — well-known and highly respected in the jazz world, yet comparatively overlooked by the public. Though his credits include 14 Grammy nominations and three Grammy awards, and he’s worked with pop stars like Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughn, Holman’s fame rests almost entirely within the jazz community.
For the last 30-plus years, the composer/arranger has steadily increased his activities in Europe, conducting, composing and arranging extended works for orchestras in the Netherlands and Germany. His sterling A-list of American big band collaborations: Count Basie, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich and Doc Severinson’s Tonight Show Orchestra proved irresistible to jazz-loving Europeans.
The Bill Holman Collection of musical scores became a part of the Smithsonian Institute’s permanent collection in 2006. He’s been inducted into the Rutgers Jazz Hall of Fame and received the Golden Score Award from ASCAP.
“We have a pretty diverse program on Saturday,” said Tom Fairlie, director of the TJO. “Holman’s arrangements of everything from The Beatles ‘Norwegian Wood’ to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ to the Kenton blockbuster ‘Malaguena.’ We’ve done some of these dedication concerts before and I just think Bill’s a great writer.”
And about Holman’s quirkiness? “His unexpected use of dissonance and rhythmic ‘hooks’ are unique,” Fairlie said. “Maybe even a little twisted, but brilliant.”
Audience warm-up chores at Saturday’s concert will be handled by the Temple High School Highlighters Jazz Ensemble, directed by Brett Matheson.
The TJO’s wide range of Holman’s critically-acclaimed arrangements and compositions performed Saturday include standards: “Star Dust,” Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” and the Count Basie chart “Tree Frog” — just a few from the hundreds of recordings that showcase his originality, skill and swinging style.