REVIEW: Frank Holder Sextet at Pizza Express Dean Sreet

Frank Holder singing, showing his moves and playing the conga in 2015
Photo credit: Tatiana Gorilovsky 

Frank Holder Sextet
(Pizza Express Dean Sreet. 10th April 2016. Review by Helen Theophanous)

He’s just turned ninety-one. From the very first notes of the opening number Lover, one had to look up to believe that those sonorous honey tones were coming from someone of that age. But, there again, Frank Holder is simply phenomenal. The sound brings to mind Nat King Cole or Sammy Davis Jnr and the style and laid back phrasing is reminiscent of Sinatra. But Holder is unique in his delivery. He can dismantle a song and put it back together in his own distinct style bringing fresh emotion to the words with superb legato phrasing soaring into a sweet falsetto or with an energetic easy rhythmic energy. Holder is also a superb percussionist and the conga seems almost to be a part of him. He no longer jumps in the air with the conga between his knees as he did decades ago but the rhythm is just as strong.

Holder demonstrated his credentials as a master of bebop with consummate ease such as in his own composition Sundance and in Every Day I have The Blues. There was complete easy connection between the musicians which communicated to the audience, with the odd humorous remark for good measure. Holder has his own catch phrase too with a cheeky glance at the audience – “How much of this can you stand”? The calls for an encore answered that question. And Holder does stand up and move with what can only be described as sultry hip movements to numbers such as Brazil, bringing a flavour of carnival to the stage. Every song was a masterclass in performance and entertainment.The Latin numbers were on fire and Holder’s mastery of bebop just a joy. But for me the ballad Time After Time was the most poignant performance as Holder poured his decades of experience into the lyrics, the emotions showing through each note. Well deservedly,Holder was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 2015.

The gig was presented by John Levett of The Listening Room Music Agency. They will present another Frank Holder gig on Sunday August 14th at Ronnie Scott’s with the Geoff Castle Trio.


Frank Holder – vocals and conga
Geoff Castle – piano
Stan Robinson- tenor sax
Les Cirkel – drums
Shane Hill- guitar
Val Mannix- bass

Set list:

Lover (Rodgers & Hart)
Time After Time (Cahn/Styne)
Every Day I Have The Blues (A&M Sparks)
Body And Soul (Johnny Green)
Tangerine (Schertzinger/Mercer)
Caravan (Juan Tizol)
What Is This Thing Called Love (Cole Porter)
Brazil ( Barroso)
Sundance ( Holder)
A Foggy Day (Gershwin)
Professor Bop ( Gillespie)
Speak Low (Weill)

Categories: miscellaneous

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