An impressive list of contributors highlights Bob Holz’s latest release, A Vision Forward, featuring legends such as jazz fusion guitarist Larry Coryell, electric guitarist Mike Stern and trumpeter Randy Brecker. Even more impressive is that this innovative disc was created right here in Central New York.
Holz, who is originally from Fayetteville, started playing drums in 1965. The graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music has been part of the Salt City music scene for more than 30 years, gigging with diverse bands from Cold Sweat to Roosevelt Dean and the Spellbinders.
But in 2012, he decided to take a stab at his own original material. “I’ve put out a CD every year since then,” Holz notes.
The star-studded lineup on A Vision Forward is a testament to the exceptional talent that has come from Central New York. “On Split Decision and the album before that, Pushin’, I had my friend Paulie Cerra play,” Holz explains. “We played together years ago and now he’s touring with Joe Bonamassa. I reached out to him to play some sax on my records and he introduced me to Billy Steinway, who is now my musical partner.
“I used a track they were on, “Pink Fur,” as a demo and I put it in front of some of these other great players and they liked what they heard. A friend of mine introduced me to Larry and he dug the music. I approached Randy Brecker directly and he was really into it. Then Randy introduced me to Mike Stern and he decided he’d like to play on it.”
More musicians signed on for the project, including keyboardist Steve Weingart, saxophonist John Viavattine Sr., bassist John Viavattine Jr., saxophonist Jesse Collins, guitarist Bob Wolfman, guitarist Tori Higley and Brecker’s wife, tenor sax player Ada Rovatti. Holz and guitarist Frank Stepanek recorded basic tracks locally, then had players send in tracks from studios across the country. The project took about eight months to complete, with Holz assembling the package and then adding the final touches at SubCat Studios.
“It can take a long time to do an album now digitally,” Holz says. “If I did it again, it might be something different. Lots of guys are looking more for a live thing, more old school, recording live in a couple days vs. this digital approach. We’ll see.”
Holz joins forces with Larry Coryell for a show on Sunday, Oct. 4, at Mac’s Bad Art Bar in Mattydale. He hopes to tour more with Coryell and also shop the album to major labels.
“I met Roy Holland through all of this,” Holz says. “He managed Mike Stern for 10 years. He’s taken me under his wing in a managerial way. He’s helping me get all my media representation and CD together and we’ve got a label that’s very interested to take it once it’s done. We’re talking to booking agencies and trying to set up some trio stuff and establish the band.”
The project is still in the formative stages, somewhere between a solo project, trio and band. Yet Holz hopes such small stepping stones will help bring him and the exceptional talent he’s got on his side to jazz festival stages around the country, as well as major New York City rooms such as The Iridium and Birdland.
“Roy has connections in Europe and Japan, too,” he adds. “The jazz market is really hurting this days, so we’re going to look to other markets. We’re working at a micro level now and building it up.”
Holz is musically satisfied these days. He’s finally able to play jazz music as well as his original material, and he’s grateful to play with the remarkably high-caliber musicians he now calls friends.
“They’re nurturing, helpful and encouraging,” Holz says. “I take all of this with a grain of salt, as it’s the nature of the business and things can fall on their face; I’m optimistic with a dose of reality. But just to do music is enough for me, even if nothing works out long-term. It’s a great project, the tunes are great, and I hope it gets out so people can hear it. And I don’t think I’d be able to make music like this without the individuals I met through Paulie Cerra, a local guy who’s done really well. I owe a lot to Paulie.”