The Bill Holman Big Band at Vitello’s

By Tony Gieske

Bill Holman

The great Bill Holman writes all his own charts, as we know. So the bounty being bestowed from the bandstand at Vitello’s Monday night had mostly to do with the creative stovetop of the silver-haired bandleader drinking it all in as he stood a few feet away amid the tables.

Watching his gentle, 83 year old face, you did not feel self-satisfaction there. This was more like gratitude, as the little dots he had applied to the scoring pad came to fierce and undeniable life.

Tonight he was hearing a double barreled volley of goodies: The tunes by Thelonious Monk,  the redevelopment by his own fine hand.

Andy Martin
Bruce Babbad

Monk’s great asset is his mastery of space, and that is a friendly and familiar world to the Holman talent as well. So the ear feasted on rich bold tuttis (some of them perhaps modeled on long-ago Holman tenor saxophone improvisations), section counterplay, delicious rests, and linear solos from the top talents manning the horns and rhythm instruments.  Pete Christlieb’s tenor saxophone outpourings, Andy Martin’s trombone devisings, Bruce Babad’s alto heat and trumpeter Ron Stout’s warm hearted  balladry were unassailably astute; Carl Saunders, or whoever was playing lead, topped the trumpet section up there in Ernie Royal territory.

Carl Saunders

Driven by the drum power from Kevin Kanner, the movable bass feasts of Joel Hamilton and the spare bluesy piano work of  Joe Bagg, the band got itself up there in Duke Ellington territory; they even made Ellington’s “Raincheck”  into a new delight all their own.

For which we were all grateful.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.

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