WBGO Radar

Mike Holober: Balancing Act

Mike Holober, WBGO, radar, jazz, piano, music, exclusive, stream, westchester

Whenever I've had the good fortune to encounter a performance from pianist/ composer/arranger Mike Holober, its always been an exciting, layer filled experience of sounds, colors, derangements of music I thought I knew, or something completely new, requiring a tip to the gods of musical good fortune for finding myself in a seat in the first place.

Mike Holober can make still life move, make a great assembling of musicians greater. I witnessed this regularly for almost 10 years during his tenure as artistic director of the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, and through studio recordings from his Gotham Jazz Orchestra.

Mike's smaller group sessions touch, move, grab and hold just as powerfullly. Maybe it's in the title of upcoming release, "Balancing Act", the call & response of work/play, dreams/realities, gratitude/entitlement, leading/following,  knowing/guessing, written/improvised, words/silence.

The octet here, also called Balancing Act, is comprised of vocalist Kate McGarry, saxophonists Jason Rigby and Dick Oatts, trumpeter Marvin Stamm, trombonist Mark Patterson, bassist John Hebert and drummer Brian Blade.

There are lyrics, yes (for example, "Piece of My  Heart", which got the world's attention through Janis Joplin); but listen as McGarry's wordless instrument interprets, as on the opening track, "Book of Sighs", or another dimension of the tricky syncopations of saxophonist Rigby on his piece, "Idris", a tribute to drummer Idris Muhammed.

There's a gorgeous expression on "Lullabye; Goodnight  My Angel", written by Billy Joel.

The lyrics  of Holober's original, "Grace At Sea" speak to the balancing act intended in this outing. Mark Patterson's trombone gives this chart an exploring course.

On "Canyon", another Holober chart, the mastery of Marvin Stamm and Dick Oatts take us deep, as Blade's pace moves the piece nicely to closure.

Mike's "Sighs Matter" spells out patience as the force that moves this ensemble through this  flowing piece, where solo voices organically emerge rather than simply playing over changes.

I hope my next  trip feels like the closer, "When There Were Trains", a sense memory for the leader. McGarry's delivery of Holober's lyrics, in tandem with the remarkable musicianship, makes this form of transportation pretty desirable too.
"Balancing Act" comes out November 13th from Palmetto Records.

Gary Walker, WBGO Music Director


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