About Jim

Jim Holman is a pianist/composer/instructor rooted in Chicago who has performed with Eric Alexander, Paul Wertico, Ira Sullivan, Ari Brown, Claudio Roditi, Jimmy Chamberlin (drummer for the smashing Pumpkins), Frank Catalano, Roger Humphries, Cecil Bridgewater, Yotam Silberstein, Donald Harrison, John Moulder, Abe Laboriel, Dennis Carroll, Clark Sommers, Richie Cole and Dana Hall and many more.


Holman’s upcoming album features New York tenor legend, Eric Alexander, along with Clark Sommers, and Tim Davis. His discography also includes two albums on the Delmark lable: “Blues Skies” feat. Ira Sullivan and Roger Humphries, and “Explosion” feat. Richie Cole and Frank Catalano. His most recent release, “Faith,” features alto powerhouse Greg Ward II and Barrett Harmon, and showcases Holman’s compositional perspective.


Holman's musical training started at home as the son of jazz pianist Scott Earl Holman and studying directly under Dave Flippo and Dennis Luxion. He earned his BA in Music from the University of Pittsburgh under the tutalage of Frank Cunnimondo, and MM in Jazz Performance from DePaul University studying with Ron Perrillo. Upon his graduation from Pitt he jumped right into earning his living teaching and gigging at Chicago clubs such as the Green Mill, Andy's Jazz Club, and the Jazz Showcase.


It was during this fruitful period that Holman first started playing with multi-instrumentalist icon, Ira Sullivan, who would travel from Miami to Chicago every year during the late summer for his residency at the Jazz Showcase. Holman made an effort to book gigs every year around this time to play and record with Sullivan. This continued every year until Ira’s passing in 2020. 


Through conversations and experience sharing the bandstand with Sullivan, Holman grew quickly, and started to cultivate his own voice as an artist. It was on Ira’s recommendation that he met Bob Koester at Delmark Records, who would soon after release Holman’s first two albums as a leader.


In 2012 he released his debut album “Explosion” on the Delmark label. It featured the late alto legend Richie Cole, and Chicago mainstay Frank Catalano–with whom Holman had performed at the Green Mill for 4 years. It received critical acclaim and international airplay. In 2013 he released his second album on Delmark, “Ira Sullivan Presents the Jim Holman trio: Blue Skies.” It features legends Ira Sullivan and Roger Humphries. It too received acclaim and international airplay.


In 2017 Holman, along with his father Scott Earl Holman, launched the Annual Labor Day Jazz Festival (originally called the Rusty Jones Labor Day Jazz Festival as a nod to the late great drummer Rusty Jones). In its first incarnation, it was a non-stop 9 hour jam session, with Sullivan and the Holmans as co-hosts. It featured several house bands including drum legend Paul Wertico.


Soon after, Holman shifted the jam session format to a showcase of top-tier artists each Labor Day. Sullivan continued to host along with Holman until Sullivan’s passing. The most recent iteration was held at the Jazz Showcase featuring Eric Alexander, Paul Wertico, Clark Sommers, Ari Brown, John Sutton, Matt Ulery, Mark Neuenschwander, Tim Davis, Sam Robinson, Ted Sirota, Linard Stroud,  Jim Holman, and Scott Earl Holman. 


The 7th Annual Labor Day Jazz Festival will be held on Labor Day in 2024 


Holman’s compositional approach is documented in his latest Album “Faith,” which features alto great, Greg Ward II. Holman tends toward melodic themes that spin out within through-composed forms. Harmonically he has an affinity for dense sonorities with careful voice leading being juxtaposed against block voicings. Particularly in “Faith,” Holman experiments with the implications of the back-beat, and electronic orchestration.


As a performer, Holman draws most heavily from bebop, and post-bop language. Particular artists that weigh heavily on him: Sonny Clark, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Wally Cirillo, Gonzalo Rublecaba, Brad Mehldau, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Drew Jr., and many more. Although his adventurous harmonic sense is often cited, perhaps a greater portion of his focus aims at phrasing. 


He uses his experience to not only further his own grasp of musical truth but also to facilitate his teaching private lessons. Holman stresses the importance of some basic fundamentals such as 4-note voices in closed and open position, to more advanced and subjective analysis such as the rhythmic implications on the harmonic function in Bach’s Prelude VI in book 1. His general teaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of music theory, but also stresses an equal awareness that it is just that– theories. They are somewhat arbitrary and are really only useful to help the practitioner codify sounds. What is the most important to is to hear the next note before they play it. His students will often hear phrases like “a note in time,” or “every note is in every key.” 


Holman continues to search for evermore precise and lyrical approaches in music as a performing artist. 



CDs on Delmark Records

Interview with Ira Sullivan


upcoming performances