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Mike Holober and the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Thought Trains

Mike Holober’s Thought Trains (Sons of Sound) was recorded in 1996, and has just now been properly mixed and mastered. “Jump Down, Spin Around” (the only non-Holober tune among the eight tracks) presents the kind of challenge that an imaginative arranger uses to display his chops-and does he ever, employing start-stop percussive licks worthy of the title. The 18-piece band eats it up, particularly trumpeter Scott Wendholt, trombonist Pat Hallaran, alto saxophonist Jon Gordon and soprano saxophonist Tim Ries. Pianist Holober, who generously defers to his sidemen, solos only twice. But his presence-his muscular comping-is always keenly felt, boosted by bassist Ron Carter.

The combination of Carter and Holober, sharing solo honors, provides one of the album’s highlights: The masterful “Waltz Medium” evolves from a subtle, evocative 3/4 duologue, through orchestral clusters worthy of Gil Evans, to a more intense, full-blown jazz waltz. It never shouts, remaining civilized all the way. It’s all part of the Holober concept of intelligent swing that can be found on all the tracks. “Form x Mood” is a well-named case in point: organic, emerging from a simple motif, the song climaxes in the middle and ends as quietly as it began. The changes are unconventional but very beautiful.

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