Opinion

Bill Holman, Whose Arrangements Shaped West Coast Jazz, Dies at 96

Bill Holman, an arranger and composer whose work with Stan Kenton, Gerry Mulligan and other jazz greats established him as a transformative figure in the cool jazz sound associated with 1950s California, died on Monday at his home in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles. He was 96.

Kathryn King, his stepdaughter, announced the death.

Mr. Holman’s longtime collaboration with Mr. Kenton, first as a saxophonist in his band and later as an arranger, provided the foundation of his reputation, but he also went on to arrange for Maynard Ferguson, Count Basie, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé and many others, and to lead his own 16-piece ensemble.

He won three Grammy Awards — for his arrangements of “Take the A Train” (1988) for Doc Severinsen’s band and “Straight, No Chaser” (1998) for his own, and for his original composition “A View From the Side” (1996) — and contributed compositions and arrangements to seven other Grammy-winning records, including Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” (1991). He received a total of 16 Grammy nominations.

Mr. Holman was known for his economical, linear arrangements, which used elegant counterpoint and dissonance to enliven both old standards and his own works. Reared on the big bands of the 1930s and ’40s, he helped Mr. Kenton and others from that era make the transition to a more energetic sound in the postwar years.

He was already an innovative arranger when he was in his 20s, creating new avenues that jazz would pursue over the following decades. And yet, while he was often imitated, his unique style remained easily recognizable, even on pieces that he ghostwrote for other arrangers.

Mr. Holman in 1999. He won three Grammy Awards, two for arrangements and one for his original composition “A View From The Side.”Credit…Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times

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