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Music Notes: Scott Holman's low-volume attack

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Pianist Scott Holman gets up at four in the afternoon, when most of his Glenview neighbors are preparing to leave the office. When he gets home from work, one of his weekly gigs in Palatine and Naperville, his wife and children are just beginning to stir. Appropriately enough, his debut CD is titled Don't Wake the Kids (Southport).

"When you're addicted to jazz, you've always got something playing on your turntable," says Holman. "And yet in the late hours, that can disturb the family. This album is really designed to be listened to at a low volume and yet keep your interest as though it were high-energy music. Usually when you play something soft it's soothing, and this isn't designed to be soothing. It's designed to be intriguing, but at a mellow level."

Holman's musical lineage is equally intriguing. In the mid-70s he studied with Wally Cirillo at North Dade Community College in Florida. Cirillo, a student of John Cage, was a composer and sideman on Charles Mingus's 1954 album Jazz Composers Workshop. "I think that Cirillo instilled in me some basics--certain voicings and so on--that got me going in a direction he started," says Holman. Like Cirillo, Holman picks up on Mingus's celebrated practice of composing for the specific players performing the music. A spark ignited when Holman first got together with bassist Pawel Jarzebski and drummer Rusty Jones, and Holman has crafted his compositions to fan the flame. "We played, hopefully, a progressive brand of jazz, and yet there was something about it that could be accessible, by the nature of its low-keyness. I wanted to capitalize on that, and I wrote pieces around the trio, the certain sound we had.

"When I write, I can't help but be aware of how one song fits next to the other. When I think of doing a CD, I think in terms of a package, of what it would sound like from beginning to end and how well it would flow. I've always been intrigued by the idea of having jazz work in movements like symphonies do."

Holman's music can refer back to other people's work: occasionally the trio slips into mellow grooves reminiscent of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (which features Holman's idol Bill Evans). Holman seems to be after the delicate balance between exploration and restraint that won Davis both critical raves and a sizable audience. Yet his ultimate goal may be spiritual, as evidenced by the titles of his compositions ("The Lord's Cause," "Marching in His Band," "The Face of God"). On the back of the CD booklet, he links the titles together to form a religious poem. "That's a salute to God," he explains, "and it emphasizes my feelings that the music is supposed to have a continuity."

To celebrate the album's release Holman's trio plays a free concert at 12:15 PM on Friday at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. At 5 PM Saturday they'll perform at the Beale Street Blues Cafe, 1550 N. Rand in Palatine, 847-776-9850 ($7 cover after 8 PM). --Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Lloyd DeGrane.

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