May 2009

Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra

With exquisite textures and evocative arrangements that recall Gil Evans, and an Ellingtonian balance between ensemble and individual excellence, Mike Holober and his 17-piece Gotham Jazz Orchestra have evolved a special synthesis. This latest collection brings us four Holober originals, a makeover of “Roc & a Soft Space” (which appeared in quartet form on his Canyon in 2003), and two audacious covers, “Here Comes the Sun” from the Beatles’ songbook and the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.”

Rainer Fehringer

Mike Holober

Neither of these rock standards sounds at all crass or commercial as Holober & Co. work them over. Reeds, muted trumpets and Holober at the piano set up a drizzly launching pad in the George Harrison tune before the mutes come off and Dave Pietro blazes into a fiery alto peroration. At nine minutes, this meditation is a full four minutes shorter than the exploration of the Keith Richards-Mick Jagger line, featuring a relatively placid trombone solo from Mark Patterson, Tim Ries swinging hard on tenor, and guitarist Steve Cardenas turning on the distortion halfway through his stint at about the 11-minute mark.

All the originals are superb, with the title tune and the slow waltzing “Thrushes” sporting the most fascinating colors. Holober has his own definition of “quake”: the sound of autumn leaves rustling in the wind. That quietly surprising individualism and beauty are never absent for long.

Originally published in May 2009
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