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Jazz Review : Holman Orchestra, Brubeck Conclude West Coast Festival

November 01, 1994|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In a fitting aesthetic climax to Jazz West Coast, Bill Holman's Orchestra looked at both then and now in a stunning show Sunday afternoon in the Grand Ballroom of the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel in Redondo Beach, the four-day affair's main venue.

Before more than a thousand listeners, the master composer and arranger delivered a 40-minute commissioned piece entitled "The '40s: Swing to Bebop," an enthralling patchwork of both classic and arcane tunes stitched together by intriguing interludes. In his idiosyncratic, instrumentally colorful way, Holman made this melange as contemporary as a Quentin Tarantino look at a cheap crime novel.

The orchestra played portions of such favorites as "Ornithology," "A Night in Tunisia" and " 'Round Midnight," as well as lesser-known pieces such as "Mop Mop" and "The Chase." These melodies often emerged surprisingly, some coming out of grand orchestral swells, one out of an ethereal passage played deliciously sotto voce by trombonist Bob McChesney and bassist Paul Morin. Throughout, there was the fine soloing of Ron Stout and Bob Summers (trumpets), Pete Christlieb, Lanny Morgan and Bob Efford (saxes) and Rich Eames (piano), among others, and the bubbling bombast provided by drummer Bob Leatherbarrow.

Holman's set also included a regal version of Jimmy Rowles' poignant "The Peacocks," where Efford's bass clarinet purred and croaked, often surrounded by brass figures that shimmered like sunlight on a Monet pond.

The festival concluded Sunday evening with solid performances by pianist Dave Brubeck's quartet and the Oxnard-based Estrada Brothers in a concert at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Brubeck, looking gaunt but vital at 73, played melodically and with economy and taste.

His lovely evergreen, "The Duke," segued into an Ellington medley where he dispatched the punchy, two-hand chordal statements that are his improvisational forte. Another highlight was the creeping "River, Stay 'Way From My Door," where Brubeck offered chattering, rhythmic lines, and clarinetist Bill Smith and bassist Jack Six both played meaty solos.

The Estradas' set--a tribute to Cal Tjader--spotlighted the zesty, ringing vibes of Reuben Estrada. Centered by a cooking rhythm section, the underrated band played vibrant interpretations of "Soul Sauce," "Cuban Fantasy" and others.

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