Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jeff Holmes Quartet - Of One's Own

Jeff Holmes small group debut album ... 
Funny, quirky, personal jazz ( quote: Arturo O' Farrill)
Hans Koert

The opening tune of Jeff Holmes latest album Of One’s Own hit me  ….  The piano intro is influenced by great piano players like Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell …. The album Of One’s Own is not Jeff’s debut album in fact, but it is his first album with a small group …… a quartet, which features  Adam Kolker on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Jef Holmes at the piano, James Cammack on the bass and Steve Johns on drums.

Jeff Holmes ( photo courtesy: Chris Drukker)

Born in  1955 he raised in Lynnfield (MA) and studied at the Eastman School of Music. In 1976 he made his debut on record with its Eastman Jazz Ensemble. He played the trumpet on this record, in fact his main instrument in those days. He is a gifted composer and arranger and in 1978 he was one of the arranger of the California State University LA Jazz Ensemble. His debut on piano must have been in the mid 1980s when he played the piano in the Sonny Costanzo Big Band. Jeff is still a sought after trumpet player, but not on this album .... If you go more deeply into his musical career as a trumpet and  piano player, composer, arranger, educator  and big band leader, you wonder why his name is rather unknown in this part of the world.

Jeff Holmes Quartet ( f.l.t.r: Jeff Holmes - Adam Kolker - James Cammack - Steve Johns) (photo courtesy: Chris Drukker)

  His band mates know all the tricks. Steve Johns is a drummer’s drummer, the liner notes read, groove without strain, inventiveness without forcing the issue. 
He started his career in the 1980s in bands like Jens Wendelboe New York Big Band Area  Code (212) – the former Norwegian band leader, who studied during that period at the Manhattan School of Music - now he's still appreciated for his craftmanship as instrumentalist, composer and bandleader. Last year he released a great album entitled Fresh Heat. I’m not going to list a name of musicians Steve has accompanied during the last 30 years, because it would fill this complete review – nowadays he’s active as an educator and plays in groups like Native Soul, accompaning legends like Benny Golson and Sonny Fortune as well as his own groups …..
Bass player James Cammack: An extremely sensitive player. He is an excellent sideman and his own solos demonstrate both virtuosity and musicality. Although he started at the piano and trumpet, he took the bass and started to play at the West Point Jazz Band, where non other than Ahmad Jamal heard him and asked him to become part of his band.  James Cammack is still, after 30 years, Ahmad Jamal’s regular bass player – in July 2011 he joined Ahmad Jamal at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam. These two guys make it a dreamed rhythm section for Jeff – I’m sure …….

The Jeff Holmes Quartet (photo courtesy: Chris Drukker)

Last but not least: Adam Kolker ... He is a multi-talented performer, composer and arranger, his biography reads.  He made his debut in the Orange Then Blue ( with John LaPorta en George Schuller) mid 1980s and recorded with Ray Barretto. His debut album under his own name was entitled Crazybird (1998) for Dutch A-Records. 
  • The album, Of One’s Own, has nine tracks – five compositions by Jeff Holmes himself and four tracks from others, like John Abercrombie’s Labour Day, Richard Rodgers So Long, Far Well; Waltz #3 by Toby Holmes and Nat Simon’s Poinciana.   
 As I told you before … the first tune Macaroons, with a great opener at the piano, made me prick up my earsThis is jazz as I like best ….. There is, as one of my colleague reviewers wrote … such an undeniable chemistry here that :30 seconds in one gets the feeling  this fabulous 4tet may have been together 30 years (Brent Black from Critical Jazz). This feeling continues at all nine tracks. Personally I liked One For C.J., with Adam Kolker on bass clarinet, the former mentioned opening tune Macaroons and the final track, entitled So Long, Farewell, known from the Sound of Music …………

The title of the album, Of One’s Own, seems to be inspired by the fact that  Jeff Holmes presents himself here for the first time, not just hidden somewhere in the band playing his notes at the trumpet (not on this record) or the piano - directing and arranging its band book behind the scenes, but …… on his own …. into the spotlights ….. It would be great if this album could become a recommendation for European club owners or festival producers, to invite the Jeff Holmes Quartet to perform in this part of the world ……….. I’ll be there - on the first row.

Hans Koert
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Jeff Holmes is one of those jazz musicians that have made a career in jazz, as a trumpet player, as a pianist, educator, composer, arranger,.. you name it ... but still unknown in this part of the world.  He can be heard in several albums, but Of One's Own, a telling title, is his first one in a small setting ........  This Of One's Own, in which he plays  funny, quirky, personal jazz ( as piano player Arturo O' Farrill labels it) could become an introduction to his music in this part of the world. A great album!

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