This project began in 2008 as more of a straight-ahead commercial swing dance band, with apparent emphasis on getting the audience on the dance floor. Well, they shifted focus slightly but the result will get you moving and feeling the groove just the same. The arrangements here are sophisticated and a nice blend of classic jazz standards with challenging ambitious arrangements. Benny Golson’s “Stablemates” finds principlesoloist Holland and alto saxophonist Stone trading flowing solos over graceful chord changes. It is a bright and bubbly tune that features a tasty build-up in the coda where the soloistshave a free-for-all in the ending vamp.
A nice lyrical melody follows with a track called “Slidin’,” The combination of drummer Thompson’s light cymbal work sets up a cool vibe for the father and son solo team of Bill and Evan Dobbins on piano and trombone respectively . “Eternal Triangle” by Sonny Stitt is a brisk up tempo bebop burner that shines the spotlight on exceptional soloing from flugelhornist Holland. “Second Waltz” is warm and engaging and is significant for Stone’s turn on clarinet. “The Cottage” is nice the way Baron’s bass accentuates a unison melody with flugelhorn and piano.
The drums lay out briefly in the middle as the three soloists interweave their leads in loose but complementary fashion. The title cut “Trilby” has a quiet intensity to it that gradually builds by way of the dense horns and a steady straight-eigth Latin-type groove. Bill Dobbins’ romantic textures add a nice counterpoint to Holland’s smooth phrasing. “Fused” matches intricate unorthodox melodies with staccato rhythms and punchy drums. In particular, the atonal Monk-ish piano accompaniment is fresh and vibrant. “My Darling Darlene” is another sweet ballad that has a noir-ish lounge and samba feel. “While We’re Young” features Stone’s soprano work that seems a bit nostalgic. The melody is catchy and is alternated later in the piece by both Holland and Stone. Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism” is kind of quiet and leaves room for plenty of space and concentration. It remains minimalist as Baron states the melody and solos on acoustic bass and Dobbins keeps it light on piano. Finally “Rich’s Call” has a pleasant urgency to it and seems a call to arms for Rich Thompson’s Buddy Rich/ Louie Bellson-like percussion filigree. Rick Holland and Evan Dobbins lead a modern big band for the ages. They respect the sound of jazz past and mix it with original and fresh perspective. This is some truly great work!
- Eric Harabadian-Jazz Insider
Trilby, The Rick Holland-Evan Dobbins Little Big Band
The liner notes inform us that this ensemble started as a swinging dance band in 2005. Since then, they've evolved into a solid, well-arranged outfit with first rate solos played by intriguing, skilled jazz cats. The feeling I derived from the CD was similar to a classic Blue Note session. You know, several well-written originals that are melodically strong, and a few standards to test the players' chops on familiar material. The co-leaders play flugelhorn and trombone, respectively.
Most of the arrangements come from pianist Bill Dobbins, who allows plenty of room for free-swinging solo work. The familiar vehicles here include Benny Golson's "Stablemates" and Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle." I also spotted a tune called "Rich's Call" by Kerry Strayer, a baritone player of the highest stripe, and a skilled composer and arranger as well. It is interesting to note three compositions from jazz harmonica whiz, Hendrik Meurkens. Perhaps he has some connection to the band.
Finally, it should be said that this session is directed straight down the middle of the bop highway. Simply an outstanding blowing session on songs that, amazingly enough, sound like songs!
Wow! What a Surprise!
-George Fendel Jazz Society of Oregon
What a surprise! This band and musicians were unknown to me, but they are absolutely great! For listeners to hear musicians challenge themselves, and be taken along for the ride, records like this are a must!
The musicians in the Rick Holland-Evan Dobbins Little Big Band are all reaching the high musical standards realized by playing in this excellent Little Big Band! This music will be featured in my playlists for many months to come. Thank you again for sending this exceptional cd to me.
-Peter Kuller - Jazz Presenter Radio Adelaide 101.5fm & www.radio.adelaide.edu.au JPL "Jazz from Down Under"
The Rick Holland-Evan Dobbins Little Big Band, which is based in Rochester, New York, was founded in 2005. Co-led by flugelhornist Holland and trombonist Dobbins, the 11 piece group has the sound of a big band despite having eight instead of the usual 11 or 12 horns. Its musicianship is top-notch, soloists are impeccable, and arrangements are both colorful and swinging. The 11 songs heard on Trilby consist of four standards, three originals by harmonica great Hendrik Meurkens, and a song apiece by Kerry Strayer, Hal Crook, Brent Wallarab and pianist Bill Dobbins. The father of Evan Dobbins, Bill Dobbins is the best known musician in the band, contributed six of the arrangements, and is a key soloist on five songs. But enough of the statistics. The Little Big Band swings hard and puts plenty of spirit into each performance.
The opener, Benny Golson's “Stablemates,” has fine solos from Holland and the Phil Woods-inspired altoist Doug Stone, with the two battling it out near the tune's finish. Meurkens' “Slidin'” has an arrangement by Bill Dobbins that in its use of restrained tone colors is worthy of Thad Jones. A heated jam on “The Eternal Triangle” gives Holland and tenor-saxophonist Mike Pendowski an opportunity to jam, trade off and interact with each other. Holland, Doug Stone (this time on clarinet) and trombonist Nick Finzer play lyrically on the melodic “Second Waltz.” David Baron's bass is featured prominently on “The Cottage,” a haunting tune particularly worthy of several listens. “Trilby,” a lengthy exploration of the chord structure of “Alone Together,” has some excellent hard bop flugelhorn from Holland, adventurous soprano from Stone and a memorable spot for Bill Dobbins' piano.
Trombonist Dobbins, Pendowski and drummer Rich Thompson are not only well featured on “Fused” but at one point they play as a pianoless bassless trio. Rich Holland is heard at his best on the ballad “My Darling Darlene” and a jazz waltz version of “While We're Young.” David Baron is naturally in the spotlight during bassist Oscar Pettiford's “Tricotism” (along with Nick Finzer and Bill Dobbins) before Trilby closes with its most intense performance on “Rich's Call.” Throughout Trilby, the Rick Holland-Evan Dobbins Little Big Band plays on the level of most better-known ensembles, performing music that is inventive, full of life and fun. Their CD is highly recommended.
-Scott Yanow, author of ten books including The Jazz Singers, Tru
The Rick Holland—Evan Dobbins Little Big Band Trilby RPO Productions 2010 Five years after a sensational opening act (In Time's Shadow, 2006), trumpeter Rick Holland and trombonist Evan Dobbins have returned for an encore, Trilby, marshaling as before their irrepressible Little Big Band. As was noted of that earlier recording, "the only thing small about [this band] is its numbers." Baritone saxophonist Dean Keller, who shared that chair with Kerry Strayer on Shadow, also returns.
The rest of the lineup is brand new, with Evan Dobbins' dad, the well-known educator Bill Dobbins (Eastman School of Music), replacing the splendid pianist John Nyerges. Besides shining at the keyboard, Bill Dobbins wrote "My Darling Darlene" and arranged half of the album's other ten numbers. Although he doesn't play this time around, Strayer composed "Rich's Call" and arranged Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle" and Oscar Pettiford's "Tricotism," while Brent Wallarab wrote "Trilby" and arranged Benny Golson's "Stablemates." Bill Dobbins' engaging charts brighten three originals by Hendrik Meurkens—"Slidin," "Second Waltz," "The Cottage"—as well as Hal Crook's "Fused" and Alec Wilder's lovely standard, "While We're Young" (a reprise from the band's earlier album). Holland, who plays flugelhorn exclusively, solos strongly on seven numbers, striking the ball with assurance and perception on every turn at bat. Bill Dobbins ("Slidin," "The Cottage," "Trilby," "Darlene," "Tricotism") amplifies the message, as do Evan Dobbins ("Slidin," "Fused"), Doug Stone (alto on "Stablemates," clarinet on "Second Waltz," soprano on "Trilby" and "While We're Young"), tenor Mike Pendowski ("Eternal Triangle," "Fused," "Rich's Call"), trombonist Nick Finzer ("Second Waltz," "Tricotism"), bassist David Baron ("The Cottage," "Tricotism") and blue-chip drummer Rich Thompson ("Eternal Triangle," "Fused," "Rich's Call").
When they're not having their say, the ensemble is front and center, giving each of the charts its single-minded attention. The result is music that flows easily without miscue. Trilby marks a second triumph by the Holland / Dobbins Little Big Band, which, as was noted after its debut album, "is more big than little, in every sense of the word." Those who appreciate a tight, swinging band, even if slightly undersized, are sure to admire Trilby.
- Jack Bowers--All About Jazz
In Time’s Shadow features a tasty big band that interprets exciting original compositions and several standards on this warm and welcome program. The band swings hard under the co-leadership of trumpeter Rick Holland and trombonist Evan Dobbins, and achieves a balance of cool sonority along with its fire.
Although the performance includes superb soloing on a level that sets lofty standards, the focus is on the band’s arrangers: Brent Wallarab, Bill Dobbins, Jim Martin, and Kerry Strayer. While the Rick Holland-Evan Dobbins Little Big Band contains fewer members than a standard big band, each arrangement has been conceived with a full orchestral sound in mind. Thus, the band’s sections blossom with full harmonic layers that do each composition justice. Jim Martin’s title track flows gently with a broad brush of harmonic colors that waft lazily as if riding on a cool summer breeze. The piece, a slow and swinging contrafact for “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” features warm solos from saxophonist Matt Pivec, trumpeter Holland, and pianist John Nyerges.
Kerry Strayer opens “Jeru Blue” with echoes of Gerry Mulligan and moves the band into a boppin’ journey through time. Glenn Cashman waltzes comfortably through “Creature Comfort” with a spontaneous solo section that bubbles with one surprise after another. “Rosetta” features a swinging theme by pianist Nyerges and another stirring solo spot from trumpeter Holland.
Other creative soloists on this warm and swinging program include baritone saxophonist Dean Keller, tenor saxophonist John Viavattine, trumpeter Brian Shaw and trombonist Neal Melley.
CD Reviews: Rick Holland & Evan Dobbins "In Time's Shadow" CD-2006 Blujazz
By Glenn Astarita
This thirteen-piece ensemble combines the eloquence and nuance of a small group with the snappy horn charts of a big band. Trumpeter Rick Holland and trombonist Evan Dobbins enact a rite of passage, consisting of fluid arrangements, awash with cascading horns and gracefully ascending head charts. Add a smidgeon of tender balladry and you have a frothy concoction of briskly swinging motifs, all enhanced by the band's buoyant undercurrents.
Tenor saxophonist John Viavattine renders a soulful, jazz solo on the Latin-tinged opener titled "SUNY-Triangle," which denotes a playful spin on the Bermuda Triangle and the State University of New York. Therefore, the band soldiers forward with a tropical edge, merged with a gutsy, East Coast type modern jazz vibe. At times, the musicians pack a mighty wallop to coincide with their tastefully enacted dynamics, where the soloists often reconstruct a given melody line. Holland and Dobbins triumphantly aggregate mainstream big band theories with a contemporary slant that underscores this irrefutably entertaining succession of works. - Glenn Astarita
IN TIME’S SHADOW
The Rick Holland /Evan Dobbins Little Big Band
This recording features the sounds of timeless jazz and new music written for a little big band. A little big band is usually a band composed of less than 20 pieces and more than a tentet (10-piece band). Here, a tenet, listeners will delight in the sounds of updated Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, and Gerry Mulligan treasures as well as songs composed and arranged by Jim Martin, Bill Dobbins, Kerry Strayer and Brent Wallarab among others. The record opens with “SUNY-Triangle” a driving samba written over Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste.” It features some excellent soloing by tenor saxophonist John Viavattine and pianist John Nyrges. “Black and Tan Fantasy,” is played in a 12/8 Afro-Cuban feel with involved soloing from soprano saxophone player Matt Pivec and trumpeter Brian Shaw. Their extended improvisations make this song one of the best on the CD. Earl Hines’ standard “Rosetta” is bright and punchy and features some catchy call and response in the horn sections while Gerry Mulligan’s “Night Lights,” has a moody West Coast cool vibe with its 40s film noir sound and expansive polyphonic sections. This song truly captures the cool atmosphere of Mulligan’s well-known delivery. Overall, this recording is an excellent documentation of angular post-bop, laid-back polyphonics, Latin numbers, and straight-ahead swing by a great “little big band.” Intense and intelligent, this 10-piece band brought to you by Rick Holland and Evan Dobbins has a sound that is rarely offered in today’s jazz clubs. So order your copy today.
I just wanted to write and let you know that I have listened to your CD and absolutely love it! Great music there and glad to be carrying your music in our store!
All the best,
Sal Silva III
Fuse Entertainment Mgt LLC
The title of this set is an apt one.
While much of the music presented by
the Rick Holland- Evan Dobbins Little Big Band, it hearkens back -in terms
of its sophistication, confidence and outright jazz literacy, not
nostalgically-to an era when progressive jazz, and big bands -this one
numbering 10 pieces-flourished on the scene. This is one sophisticated
outfit, featuring the arrangements and compositional skills of Brent
Wallarab, Jim Martin, Bill Dobbins and Kerry Strayer, this band struts out
the tradition and make some joyous, complex, and elegant music that reflects
its own unique identity. The resumes of all these players are impressive and
reflected in the confidence of the date. It opens with "SUNY-Triangle," a
Martin composition that works its artful sleight-of-hand over Antonio Carlos
Jobim's "Triste." Martin uses the rhythmically complex samba and drapes some
tough, knotty twists and turns over it. The intro is a beautiful and raucous
wake up call, while the head of the tune, with its staggered entrances and
exits-including some fine soloing by John Viavattine on tenor and John
Nyerges on piano-give this tune its u own unique identity. "Creature
Comfort" is a beautiful mid-tempo ballad by Wallarab with edgeless yet
multi-dimensional dissonances written into its harmonics. It swings
beautifully and includes a fine, punchy solo by tenorman Glenn Cashman.
Besides the originals, there are some fine readings here as well. There's
Wallarab's arrangement of Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy" that's a
thoroughly modern exercise losing none of Ellington's humor or rhythmic
complexity. Likewise, Gerry Mulligan's haunting, wee hours, "Night Lights,"
is given expert treatment here by Straver and Dean Keller's baritone
saxophone playing is combines Mulligan's sense of lyric and Ben Webster's
sense of time. In Time's Shadow reveals that innovation need not sacrifice
accessibility or swing. It is convincing evidence that the big band form is
alive, well and full of surprises. ~ Thom Jurek, All Music.com
All About Jazz-LA
In Time’s Shadow
by Ollie Bivins
Rick Holland (Trumpet) and Evan Dobbins (Trombone) lead a group of New York area musicians who could give the more well-known big bands in New York and Los Angeles a run for their money.
Consisting of original compositions by band members and several from unheralded composer and former Jazz Specialist for the Smithsonian Institute: Brent Wallarab, In Time’s Shadow breathes new life into a jazz genre that some say has been in need of a transfusion for a long time.
Although the 10 member band big band also covers material by Duke Ellington (“Black and Tan Fantasy”), Earl “Fatha” Hines (“Rosetta”), Alec Wilder (“While We’reYoung”), and Gerry Mulligan (“Night Lights”), it is on the well crafted originals of Jim Martin that the band really shines. From the hard driving samba of “SUNY-Triangle”, to the film noir-like tilte track, the 10 piece aggregation’s playing is marked by strong, self confident soloing throughout.
And it is this individual musicianship, particularly with trumpeter Holland, along with the quality of the original compositions that makes In Tim’es Shadow a treat. I would love to see this band live so I can see them stretch out more on each performance.
As part of the the Blujazz label, a label that promotes and distributes jazz musician’s albums, this big band is taking it’s destiny into it’s own hands rather than wait to be “discovered” by the major labels. More power to this label and all others who do the same. Lovers of Big Band music, especially, will like the Rick Holland-Evan Dobbins Little Big Band’s refreshing recording
In Time's Shadow
Rick Holland / Evan Dobbins Little Big Band | Blujazz
Don’t let the name mislead you. The only thing small about the Rick Holland/Evan Dobbins Band is its numbers. Everything else is super-size—from the remarkable energy and wall-to-wall sound to the awesome charts by Jim Martin, Brent Wallarab, Kerry Strayer and Bill Dobbins that never fail to bring out the best in the band’s two-trumpet, two-trombone, four reeds and rhythm format.
As a result, the band has released a debut album that sparkles and swings from end to end, with precise section work and impressive solos by trumpeter Holland and a number of others, most notably pianist John Nyerges. Martin wrote and arranged the saucy samba “SUNY-Triangle” (based on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste”) and the iridescent “In Time’s Shadow” (aka “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”), and it’s always a pleasure to hear from him. Martin, as some may recall, wrote a number of brilliant charts some years ago for Rob Parton’s Chicago-based JazzTech Big Band (including “Laura” and “Sentimental Journey”) along with such memorable compositions as “Dreamer of Dreams” and “Main Street News” before giving up writing for teaching. As you’ll hear, he hasn’t lost the touch.
Wallarab, who co-leads his own big band in Indianapolis with Mark Buselli, wrote “Creature Comfort,” “Footnote” and the closing samba, “Five by Five,” and adeptly remodeled Duke Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” (it’s in there somewhere) to suit a 12/8 Afro-Cuban beat. Baritone saxophonist Strayer, an earnest admirer of Gerry Mulligan, pays tribute to the master with the evocative “Jeru Blue.” Strayer also arranged Mulligan’s atmospheric “Night Lights” and Earl Hines’ strapping swinger, “Rosetta,” while Dobbins wrote the groovy blues, “Minor Incident,” and arranged Alec Wilder’s lyrical waltz, “While We’re Young.”
Strayer solos with tenor John Viavattine and bassist Dave Arenius on “Jeru Blue.” Holland is heard with Nyerges on “Footnote,” “Time’s Shadow” and “Rosetta,” baritone Dean Keller on “Night Lights,” soprano Matt Pivec on “While We’re Young.” Nyerges is showcased on “Five by Five” and shares center stage with Viavattine on “SUNY-Triangle,“ tenor Glenn Cashman on “Creature Comfort.” Pivec and trumpeter Brian Shaw are the soloists on “Black and Tan Fantasy,” Shaw, Nyerges and trombonist Neal Melley on “Minor Incident.” None is less than admirable.
The Holland/Dobbins Little Big Band is more big than little, in every sense of the word. Big band enthusiasts should love it, and so should everyone else who digs well-designed and well-played contemporary jazz.
Jack Bowers-All About Jazz.com
Reprinted with permission. Copyright (c)  AllAboutJazz.com
by Jack Bowers.
"As an agency that books entertainment for our clients with some frequency, we were extremely impressed with both the professionalism and quality of the Rick Holland Jazz Quartet. They were easy to work with and sounded great. They made our event stand out."
Howell, Liberatore & Wickham, Inc.
"We were so pleased with the music and your group was great. Everyone enjoyed, and it was just what we had in mind. This was just an outstanding group.. Thank-you!"
David and Karen Source, Rochester, NY
"When we heard Uptown Society perform at a New Year's Eve concert we knew that we wanted them to play at our wedding. They had the perfect blend of jazz, swing and romantic ballads. They are excellent musicians and we were thrilled to find that they were available for our wedding. Our guests were thrilled that we hired them; we received so many compliments. Uptown Society provided a wonderful 'soundtrack' for our storybook wedding."
Eric and Kim von Oeyen
Battle Creek, MI
"I would love to make a statement regarding the wonderful music and the way you and your band were so accommodating. Many of our guests commented about the great choice of music that we chose and mostly that they did not have to shout in order to make conversation with the other guests at the table. Mark and I were very happy that Kate and I could work with you to make her and Dan's day what they wanted it to be."
Thank you again,
Paula and Mark Stephanic
and Kate and Dan Bartlett
Grand Rapids, MI
"Dear Dr. Holland,
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. Your performance with the Rick Holland-Kerry Strayer Quintet last Friday was outstanding. Your performance greatly contributed to the Kalamazoo Public Schools celebration of Black-History Month. I especially appreciate your
putting together a program that emphasized the contribution that Black-Americans have made made to this great art-form!
I have received many compliments from school principals, teachers and students alilke on the balance of your program and how the students enjoyed the musical performance. As you could tell by the applause and the respectful attitude of your audience of 1400 members, the quality of your performance was professional and highly entertaining. It proves when you put superior performers in front of an audience, fine behavior and educational goals are met and rewarded! Thanks again on a fine concert performance."
-- Richard Hintz, Fine Arts Consultant, Kalamazoo Public Schools
"At the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts we have had a number of occasions to use the services of the Rick Holland Quartet. Whether for a small concert hall setting, a reception in one of our galleries, or as a headline draw for our 'Art and All That Jazz Series,' Rick Holland's work has consistently met the highest of performance standards for our audiences. When the subject of jazz comes up at our museum, our members, visitors and patrons inevitably want to know the answer to one question: "When is the next performance by Rick Holland?" I would highly recommend this innovative artist as one of the class acts to grace our institution and the Kalamazoo community through his work as a performer, a writer and a recording artist."
-- Gordon Bolar, Development Director, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
"The Uptown Society Orchestra may have had six members, but it sounded as if it had twice as many as members blew triumphantly throughout New Years eve night." (Front page Kalamazoo Gazette, regarding the New Years Eve Festival 2004, Kalamazoo, Michigan)
-- Bill Wood, Arts and Entertainment critic, Kalamazoo Gazette
From the bride: "The music was wonderful! We could not have asked for a
better band. Our guests were really impressed; the Uptown Society Orchestra really made our reception special."
From the groom: "What a professional group. Their exceptional musicianship brought a real element of class to the party. There's nothing like the sound of a live band, and this group made our reception better than we could have hoped for."
From the father of the bride:(Dennis Nowicki): "The band was fantastic -- they really exceeded our expectations."
-- Anders Dahlberg and Stacy Nowicki, Wedding at the Chicago Art Museum
"The Uptown Society Orchestra directed by Rick Holland performed at our
wedding reception. They did a fantastic job and the music sounded beautiful!
I would recommend them for any event in which you want: elegance, class, and
a unique sound. They truly made our day special."
-- Kimberley Krummrey, Battle Creek, Michigan
"The photographer really liked the bands effect on the crowd. Everyone congregated in small groups facing one way so they could hear the music. (And make getting all of them in an informal group shot all the easier.) We have had many many complements. Again, thank you for a job well played."
-- Fred and Megan James, Kalamazoo, MI., Gull Lake CC Wedding
"Since the wedding I have received so many wonderful complements for the choice of music and hiring of the Rick Holland Quartet. You did a superb job. Thanks again.. "
-- Azim and Mehry Houshyar, Western Michigan University
"Everyone thought the Uptown Society Orchestra was great. You did a wonderful job. I will certainly share your music with others! I enjoyed your music so much that I would like to listen to it more. Thank you again for doing an awesome job!"
-- Corey Portatlin, Silver Lake, MI Wedding Reception
"My fiancée and I really dug The Uptown Society Orchestra at the East Lansing Art Fair, and thought it would be great for our wedding. It's a great band with a great sound."
-- Dave Rosin, Musician and Educator, Lansing, MI
"We are looking forward to having the Rick Holland Quartet appear at our Food, Wine & All That Jazz event on October 24th in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This event is one of the most highly anticipated social gatherings in West Michigan with attendance nearing the 1000 mark. We have people who come to the event from as far away as Chicago, Detroit and Traverse City to taste a wide selection of gourmet foods with over 250 domestic wines and listen to great jazz music . The group's appearance adds immensely to the ambiance of the evening and compliments the food and wine offerings, all to help raise funds to support public t television and radio."
-- Gary Kesler, Special Events Coordinator, WGVU, Grand Rapids, MI
"The Rick Holland Quartet was a big hit with our audience and they loved Rick's beautiful tone on both the trumpet and fluglehorn."
-- Tom Kirk, Hart Performing Arts Series, Hart, Michigan
"Dr. Holland's group provided the perfect background music for our company art collection reception at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. They added the"pizzazz" to the evenings events.."
-- Nancy Hecox, Pfizer
"I believe our students' interaction with The Rick Holland Quartet was a very positive one which will influence our students to take a more personal view in their music making."
-- Jim Barry, Okemos High School, Okemos, Mi.
"I was very impressed with Rick Holland's performance in the Kalamazoo Public Schools. The group played great selections from different aspects of Jazz History. There was the perfect balance between lecture and performance. I thought the concert was great and thoroughly enjoyed it! Thank-you for the wonderful educational opportunity for the students in Kalamazoo."
-- Sheri Phelps, Milwood El./Washington Writers' Academy, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Critic's Album Reviews
There Will Never Be Another You
With all the hype going to Wynton Marsalis, you might not guess that there are other, lesser-known, straight-ahead trumpet players out there who are consistently ripping the hide off the ball. This, Rick Holland's auspicious debut, is an impressive effort. The trumpeter leads his quartet, backed by a solid Michigan-based rhythm section: pianist Terry Lower, bassist Ed Fedewwa, and drummer Larry Ochiltree, through a fiery trail of originals and standards, interspersed with some fine balladry. Holland's sensitive ear translates to some tight arrangements and a well-organized program. On flugelhorn, he boasts a rich, full tone that purrs with warmth. On the faster tunes, he steams. This is the kind of jazz that feels just right on a wintry day, with the fireplace in full throttle, and the feet resting on a cushion: it hits the spot perfectly, drenched with emotional power and skillful fortitude.
- Steven Loewy, AMG **** Stars
To be sure, as producer Bob Rusch mentions in the liner notes, this music is "certainly not radical or innovative." Still, it is some of the best group playing in its genre of jazz bop. Trumpeter Rick Holland boasts a confident style, with a gentle tone reminiscent of Chet Baker, and Holland is equally adept on flugelhorn. A highlight is his duo with pianist Larry Novak on the standard "My Foolish Heart." Holland brings two rhythm sections: first, his usual Detroit group of pianist Terry Lower (who penned four of the charts), bassist Ed Fedewa and drummer Larry Ochiltree; the second, sans drums, with bassist Thomas Knife and pianist Larry Novak. The stellar recording quality, combined with a lovely mix of standards (including "The Touch of Your Lips" and "Lush Life") and originals matches the outstanding performances all the way around.
- Steven Loewy **** 1/2 stars
You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To
Rick Holland once again has recorded a selection of tunes particularly suited to his style, which consists of a bright, round tone and distinct articulation expressing a free flow of thought bordered by metrical and harmonic considerations. Unlike Positive Settings and There Will Never Be Another You though, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To adds a foil: Hendrik Meurkens. Holland's mellow approach and the narrow range of his dynamics belie some inspired ideas supporting his solos. That's certainly not the case with Meurkens, who plays harmonica with a technique that certainly cannot be described as mellow or narrow throughout most of the CD. While Holland performs the solo of "The Days of Wine and Roses" with an economy of notes and with a light but certain swing, the occasional sweetness of a raised-an-octave blurt slipping in, Meurkens employs all of the persuasiveness at his command, not just to deliver a message, but also to ingratiate himself with the listener through the rhetorical flourishes of his harmonica.
Thus, Holland's quintet offers contrasts not evident on his previous two CDs: Holland's American plain spokenness, so to speak, on "Slidin'," versus the Dutch-bred Meurkens' aposiopesis of abrupt rests on "Mundell's Mood" or Holland's slippery and linear ease through his solos on "Someday My Prince Will Come" versus Meurkens' anaphora of repeated phrases on "Come Rain or Come Shine"or Holland's lingering on half notes and slurred whole notes over two measures for full note-value effect in "Mundell's Mood" versus Meurkens' polysyndeton of connective noteson "Bolero"or Holland's placid exterior concealing roiling undercurrent versus Meurkens' overt emotional engagement. Or Holland's assured control of the flugelhorn's statements mostly in quarter notes or eighth notes during improvisation versus the unpredictability of Meurkens' harmonica as it goes microtonal or as it rips off notes with blinding sonarity. Still, the opposing and yet complementary styles of Holland and Meurkens work.
Their trading of choruses on "Someday My Prince Will Come" makes evident the understanding between the musicians despite the distance between their countries of birth or the differences between their cultural experiences. Holland spent much of his career with traditional bands like Louie Bellson's or Rob McConnell's, while Meurkens has in large part devoted himself to Brazilian music during the last 20 years. As Holland/Meurkens lead into "The Cottage" with a unison statement of the melody, they speak as one voice with joint precision and subdued force until the breakout of solos, which is where their styles diverge, largely as a result of their instruments’ technical characteristics instead of their personalities.
Holland's rhythm section from the previous CDs provides solid back-up, and pianist Terry Lower delivers low-key but illuminating solos as the occasion arises, either during introductions or during a round of ad-libbing. In deference to Meurkens' participation in the project, four of the tunes are his compositions, including his frequently played "Slidin" from the CD of the same name, while Holland contributes "Strayhorn." Combined with the four standards, the tracks on You¹d Be So Nice to Come Home to provide the opportunity for two instrumentalists who share melodic sensibilities, even during improvisation, to toss ideas back and forth during a project they obviously enjoyed.
- Bill Donaldson, Cadence Magazine
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They've performed together over the years. As jazz harmonica ace Hendrik Meurkens joins educator/flugelhornist Rick Holland and his quartet, for a cool, jazzy brew consisting of standards and originals. Melody is the key ingredient throughout, as the lead soloists complement each other via alternating statements and gleeful unison choruses. Meurkens' illuminating work on "Someday My Prince Will Come" might beckon you to head for a sandy beach on a warm summer's day. Meanwhile, Holland melds warm lines with a reflective demeanor to coincide with the rhythm section's relaxed, yet forceful sense of swing. There are quite a few jubilantly performed trinkets here, as the band projects a streamlined approach via a no frills style of play. In addition, Meurkens performs on vibes during the final piece, "Slidin."
The musicians' unflappable composure translates into an overriding sense of sophistication and tenderness. Hence, the music prompts you to dispel the common drudgeries of life. Now that alone, speaks volumes! Recommended.
- Glenn Astaria, AllAboutJazz.com
Begun in the spirit of the classic Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker
piano-less quartet, trumpeter Rick Holland and baritone saxophonist Kerry Strayer's "Speak Low" is actually split between tracks sans-piano and those with pianist Frank Mantooth. Longtime Midwesterners, Holland and Strayer both play in a thoughtful, laidback style perfectly suited to such iconic "cool" jazz tunes as "Bernie's Tune" and the softly frenetic "Swing House" -- both included here. Holland especially evinces Baker's trademark minimalist approach with a supple tone and well constructed lines that often cross-over into more adventurous post-bop territory. Similarly, Strayer's solos move along with a rhythmic punch
that owes much to the late-Mulligan. Guest Mantooth adds some genial melodicism on the Kurt Weil title track that, with Holland switching to flugelhorn, ironically also brings to mind the stellar early-'60s work of another Mulligan co-hort Art Farmer. Rounding out the lyrical ensemble are bassists Bob Bowman and Ed Fedewa along with drummers Todd Strait and Larry Ochiltree
- Matt Collar, All Music Guide
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Personnel: Rick Holland, trumpet, flugelhorn; Kerry Strayer, baritone saxophone; Bob Bowman, Ed Fedewa, bass; Todd Strait, Larry Ochiltree, drums; special guest, Frank Mantooth, piano
Tracks: Bernie's Tune; KAs' Blues; 3625 Central/Out of Nowhere; Count's Place; Speak Low; Mr. Jones; Three and One; In a Sentimental Mood; Swing HouseRecorded at Soundtrek Studios, Kansas City, MO; Ron Ubel, engineer/Arcadia Recording, Kalamazoo, MI; John Stiles, engineer.
Kerry Strayer from Kansas City and Rick Holland from Michigan have joined forces to show there's no place like home in the American heartland for West Coast jazz. Speak Low, sweet instruments: Cool is alive and well. After pioneering the landmark Birth of the Cool with Miles Davis, baritonist Gerry Mulligan traveled from New York to Los Angeles in 1952. There he met trumpeter Chet Baker and launched an innovative pianoless quartet. A quietly conversational style highlighted their brief but historic relationship.Now, half a century later, Strayer and Holland keep the conversation going.
Speak Low leads with "Bernie's Tune," which helped make the Mulligan-Baker collaboration a major draw. Here it sets the stage for sixty minutes of muted, laidback sounds evoking chosen influences yet conveying distinctive voices. "KAs' Blues," a sterling Strayer original, follows. His other composition,"3625 Central," is nicely fused on a single track with his arrangement of Baker's first recording, "Out of Nowhere." A second historical thread runs through the album. Basie and the Kansas City 7 recorded "Count's Place" in 1962.
Strayer's regular group is the New Kansas City 7, yet the irony of the present quartet effort is a Basie standard sans piano. Basie's septet cornetist was Thad Jones, whose "Three and One," recorded with two brothers in 1958, appears here. Strayer and Holland speak with one beautiful voice at the front and back of "Mr. Jones," composed by Keiko Jones for her husband, Elvin, Thad's younger brother and celebrated drummer.
The final track, Mulligan's "Swing House," joins "Mr. Jones" as favorite selections from this vantage point. Strayer, whose Jeru Blue paid tribute to Mulligan, brings a similarly lighter sound to the baritone, playing with the agility of an altoist. Holland is as confident, direct, and honest as ever. Ed Fedewa and Larry Ochiltree appear from Holland's regular quartet (and his acclaimed albums, Positive Settings and There Will Never Be Another You) to play three selections without piano. Bob Bowman and Todd Strait from Kansas City play the other six selections, four of which include special guest Frank Mantooth. His piano contributions are uniformly strong, illustrated by exemplary work on the Kurt Weill title track and Ellington's 1930s "In a Sentimental Mood."
Speak Low is finished, mature jazz, yet full of sounds my fifteen year-old son truly appreciates. It may be the dog days of summer, but a Cool breeze is starting to blow.
- Tom Fredrick, KC JAM Magazine