Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

West Coast big band arranger and composer Bill Holman has died aged 96

Winning Grammys in the 1980s and 90s for arrangements of Billy Strayhorn's 'Take the "A" Train,' Thelonious Monk's 'Straight, No Chaser' and his own composition 'A View from the Side,' Bill Holman, who has died aged 96, emerged as a leader with …

Published: 7 May 2024. Updated: 2 months.

Winning Grammys in the 1980s and 90s for arrangements of Billy Strayhorn's 'Take the "A" Train,' Thelonious Monk's 'Straight, No Chaser' and his own composition 'A View from the Side,' Bill Holman, who has died aged 96, emerged as a leader with Capitol album Bill Holman in 1954. Also in the 50s the saxophonist was a sideman with Terry Gibbs and Shorty Rogers. He also composed and arranged for Charlie Barnet and Gerry Mulligan.

With Stan Kenton he worked extensively and also arranged for Woody Herman. Holman formed his own band in the mid-1970s and his work was featured on recordings by German big bands the WDR Big Band and HR Big Band as well as the Dutch Metropole Orchestra.

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Roxana Amed, Becoming Human, Sony Music Latin ****

Prayerfulness, experimentation, meditativeness - all these and more are attributes of these 11 pieces, the first two songs are originals, the third a co-write with saxophonist Mark Small. Further Roxana Amed originals follow, then there's a …

Published: 7 May 2024. Updated: 2 months.

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Prayerfulness, experimentation, meditativeness - all these and more are attributes of these 11 pieces, the first two songs are originals, the third a co-write with saxophonist Mark Small. Further Roxana Amed originals follow, then there's a co-write with pianist Martin Bejerano, more originals and a brief co-write with Small at the end. At Jazzahead last year the Argentine American singer who played the Schlachthof was one of the best vocalists of the whole gathering in Bremen. On that occasion it was more of a day for instrumentalists but singer of the day in terms of sheer stage presence and rapport with the audience was without a shadow of a doubt the hugely gifted singer who lives in the States in a masterful latin-jazz performance that included a good deal of material from 2019's Ontology touching on words set to Wayne Shorter's 'Virgo' and Bill Evans' Miles Davis classic 'Blue in Green' that made good use of a strong band.

The new album follows last year's Los Trabajos y Las Noches with composer-pianist Frank Carlberg, the latest instalment of a project based on the poetry of Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-72).

Fast forward to Becoming Human. 'Then We Built a Home' is double the length of a number of other album tracks, the album thrives on concision and no matter how brief the pieces their impact is significant.

The experimental 'Pequeña Vox' works well. And if you like the great English singer Norma Winstone's approach then certainly the more probing dimensions that the album goes some way to survey will appeal when the singer uses vocalese to effect. As for actual words the lyrics are very poetical, there's a certain strand of magic realism in their realm - and if you are an English-only non-Spanish speaker chances are you will probably gravitate to 'Our Days of Summer' most, the reverse applies for the Spanish tracks - again the Winstone comparison is meaningful. 'Those Horses Running in the Mist' is probably the track we liked most given its scale and ambition. The electronics and bass riffs on 'Wild' also create a frisson.

Besides Bejerano and Small on the recording there's also trombone from Kendall Moore, bass from Edward Pérez and drums played by Ludwig Afonso. Amed's 11th album - a grant from the New Jazz Works scheme run by Chamber Music America helped pay for the work. Certainly it was money well spent. The song cycle concept follows a journey from birth through childhood and youth towards building an artistic identity. Arrangements are by Bejerano, Small and Moore.

A singer worth getting to know more and more either live or as here on such a luminous work that sends the listener deeply and rewardingly into Amed's own searching and powerful imagination.

Main image - detail from the Becoming Human cover art. Jazzahead image: marlbank