Simply put, Bill Holman is the best arranger in arranger-rich Hollywood. For well over half a century he has put his DNA on bands ranging from those of Count Basie, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton to Maynard Ferguson, Gerry Mulligan's concert ensemble and the Tonight Show band. For the past 30 years, Holman has fronted the most sought-after rehearsal band in L.A. Though he's a highly respected tenor saxophonist, Holman's instrument is the orchestra, and he plays it so eloquently on this CD, a live hour of his charts, lovingly explored by some of the best studio swingers in town.
Live is a master class in weaving orchestral textures, expanding voicings until the 16 pieces sound twice their number. Soloists always have a cushion of passing tones and obbligatos, and sometimes Holman switches from big-band swing to symphonic devices that suddenly sound like program music, such as the scherzo section in, of all things, the Beatles tune "A Day in the Life." Sometimes there are rolling waves of sound-check Holman's take on Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee"-and he can even point straightahead, as he does on "Zoot 'n' Al," an uncomplicated salute to Sims and Cohn.