Maine guitarist Mark Kleinhaut expands his impressive discography with Holding the Center, a progressive, contemporary outing. On his previous two recordings, A Balance of Light and Chasing Tales, Kleinhaut employed trumpeter Tiger Okoshi and alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, respectively. Here the guitarist displays his own considerable talent in the more intimate trio format.
Kleinhaut employs a guitar style best described as unhurried swing on the thirteen original compositions on Holding the Center. His tone is warm, round, and furry about the edges. He is not enamored with technology, save for the occasional loop or sample thrown in here and there. Kleinhaut produces a very refreshingly straight-ahead brand of jazz that is still full of surprisesagain progressive and contemporary.
Thoroughly modern, Holding the Center facilely incorporates older elements of jazz, which in turn reveal themselves in Kleinhaut's creative approach. "Intro to Sister Cuba is the first piece to introduce sampling, manifested as the sound of children playing behind Kleinhaut's taut flamenco nylon-string guitar playing. The introduction slips deftly into the complex head of "Sister Cuba. With shades of "Caravan and "Tin Tin Deo, this piece bounces with effervescent and humid Latin nuance. "Baby R is a bubbly bit of island music with some fine tom-tom drumming by Les Harris. Kleinhaut is fluid and rich in his comping and soloing.
The title track is the disc's center. Nominally a waltz, "Holding the Center features an expressive arco solo by bassist Jim Lyden. "Green Tea is Kleinhaut's answer to Monk's "Green Chimneys, full of craggy blues riffs and flatted fifths. Kleinhaut's piece de résistance is the closing "Rock and Sand, which departs from the guitarist's more mellow environs and evokes the spirit of Phillip Catherine crossed with John McLaughlin, ending this fine guitar disc with a bang.