Mike Holober: Canyon (2003)
Mike Holober, pianist and composer of most of these songs, is the nominal leader of this combo. However, the bulk of the melody chores are handed to saxophonist Tim Ries. Herein lies the difference. Ries, a veteran New York session player and recording artist with three releases under his own name, plays both soprano and tenor sax. On soprano, he plays with a more metallic sound that takes away from the melody; his approach on tenor is much in the style of Michael Brecker. Ries' work is more impressive on the ballads "Ansel's Easel" and "Spin," while his soprano for "Roc and A Soft Place" makes the most of Holober's tune. The up-tempo compositions do not seem memorable, notably when they feature the soprano sax. I also suspect that Ries was at least partially double-tracking since I can hear two horns played simultaneously.
Guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel comes from an early-'90s fusion background and most clearly resembles Kurt Rosenwinkel or a younger John Scofield in style. He articulates cleanly and produces some lengthy solos notably on "Same Time, Same Place." Holober plays well enough and acquits himself nicely on solos. Bassist Scott Colley and especially drummer Brian Blade are a pleasure to listen to. The album closes with two standards. "You and the Night and the Music" is taken up-tempo and does not convey much of the standard's melody line. By contrast, "Stardust," taken as a ballad, is given a tasteful reading.
Mike Holober is a New York pianist-composer who spent some time with Nick Brignola's group in that capacity. He is clearly influenced by modal pianists like Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock. This album was produced by Fred Hersch, one of today's most noted interpreters of Evans, and the liner notes penned by Jim McNeeley, another not-too-shabby pianist.
Track Listing: Canyon, Ansel's Easel, Heart of the Matter, Same Time,Same Place, Roc and a Soft Place, Spin, In So Many Words, You and the Night and the Music, Stardust
Personnel: Mike Holober, piano; Tim Ries,tenor and soprano sax; Wolfgang Muthspiel, guitar; Scott Colley,bass; Brian Blade, drums