Friday, March 30, 2012

Jim Holman's Debut Jazz Explosion

Jim Holman is an emerging pianist in Chicago’s vibrant jazz scene and Delmark has just issued his debut recording, Explosion! His father is a jazz pianist but it was Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, as well as Bud Powell, Horace Silver and Bill Evans that left a deep impression on him growing up. After studying at the University of Pittsburgh, he returned to Chicago where with the recommendation of Ira Sullivan, leading to this debut recording. It is comprised of two quartet sessions; one of six tracks with tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano and the other four tracks with alto saxophonist Richie Cole. Each of the two sessions had a pair of piano trio selections.

Brian Sandstrom on bass and drummer Rusty Jones are heard on the first six selections which opens with the appropriately titled Explosion, by Catalano, with the composer’s fiery tenor sax taking the lead with some intense playing on this feverish tempo-ed number with Holman’s piano handling the tempo as well as displaying some nice dynamics. Cataldo sits out the trio’s rendition of Joe Henderson’s Recorda Me, with some nice playing, but one wishes the drummer was either a slight bit more restrained or was a bit down in the mix on this selection. Cataldo returns and lends a bluesy flavor to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which is followed by the trio on a marvelous rendition of John Coltrane’s Lazy Bird, with Holman’s solo sparkling with his fluid playing and touch. On Bye Bye Blackbird, Cataldo opens with some honking sax flavor before providing an extroverted statement of the theme which leads into a lengthy, thoughtful melodic solo from Holman into which short drum breaks from Jones are interspersed before Catalano returns and gets really gritty while Holman adds accents with nicely selected chords.

At an earlier session, Richie Cole joined Holman (with Rick Shandling taking over the drum chair) for a solid rendition of Thelonious Monk’s Straight No Chaser, with the rhythm laying down a nice latin-tinged groove with Cole delighting with some quotes mixed in on his solo. Its followed by a lively version of Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice, and Holman’s display his ability to use space as well as his considerable technique here which has the bonus of Cole’s strong playing.

The trio is heard on the only Holman original, Bill. This performance, inspired by Bill Evans, has a flamenco tinge. Another trio performance, Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island, closes this CD. Explosion! is a solid debut for Jim Holman and suggests that he is a voice we will be hearing more from.

I received a review copy from Delmark Records.

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