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May 2003

Steps Ahead
Holding Together
NYC Records

In the summer of 1999, Steps Ahead founder/vibraphonist Mike Mainieri joined Eliane Elias, Bob Berg, Marc Johnson and Peter Erskine for a reunion tour of Europe. They recorded several of those shows but Mainieri didn't listen to the tapes for two years. He eventually did, and the result is the two-CD set Holding Together (N.Y.C.). The musicians perform the tunes with great sensitivity to one another, both as an ensemble and in solo spotlights. "Uncle Bob" just swings along, while Mainieri's gliding vibes impart an almost magical quality to a lovely version of Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," and "The Time Is Now" is a 22-minute-plus opus that gives everyone a chance to shine. There are too many high points on this solid set to mention, but it should be noted that Berg's playing is vigorous and inventive throughout and provides a poignant reminder of the profound loss the jazz world suffered when he was killed in a car accident this past December. Holding Together is not available in stores; you can only purchase it online at www.nycrecords.com.

Originally published in May 2003
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