All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

12

Mike Holober: Balancing Act

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
Pianist/composer Mike Holober has had an active career with big bands (including HR Big Band Frankfurt, WDR Big Band Cologne, Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, and the Westchester Jazz Orchestra in the U.S.). So he brings a refined approach to the composing and arranging on this octet recording. He set himself an ambitious goal: to feature a vocalist, but as another frontline instrument rather than the primary focus. "I wanted to use a singer and lyrics in extended form compositions—not wrapped up in repetitive sections or stanzas, and not as just songs," he says. Vocalist Kate McGarry appears on all eight tracks, often singing wordless vocalise.

The approach is best demonstrated in the four extended compositions for which Holober composed both music and lyrics, as in the opening "Book of Sighs." McGarry's voice is a perfect match right from the start: light and agile, capable of clearly projecting lyrics as well as blending in with other instruments. True to Holober's stated intent, the piece moves on from the opening vocal statement to an extended instrumental form, with solos interspersed. While there is plenty of opportunity for individual band members to shine, there is never a feeling of basic blowing over changes. Holober also demonstrates a real flair for lyric writing: "I read the Book of Sighs/Chapter One, your eyes...It was more than I could take in just one night."

Holober and saxophonist Jason Rigby both contribute songs without lyrics, and there are two intriguing cover songs, both modern pop rather than standards. Billy Joel's lovely "Lullabye: Goodnight My Angel" gets an extended version that subverts expectations by giving most of the melody to horns, with occasional wordless vocals—no lyrics are sung until the very end. The Jerry Ragavoy-Bert Berns classic "Piece of My Heart" (most strongly associated with Janis Joplin) gets a rhythmic and harmonic makeover. It sounds different enough from the original that a listener might not place it at first, and it fits right in with the rest of the program.

It's an altogether ambitious project, but the music never shows it. The compositions and arrangements are wonderfully realized—full of joy and energy, regardless of their complexity.

Track Listing: Book Of Sighs; Idris; Lullabye: Goodnight My Angel; Grace At Sea; Piece Of My Heart; Canyon; Sighs Matter; When There Were Trains.

Personnel: Mike Holober: piano; Kate McGarry: voice; Marvin Stamm: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dick Oatts: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Jason Rigby: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Mark Patterson: trombone; John Hebert: bass; Brian Blade: drums.

Title: Balancing Act | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

When There Were Trains

When There Were Trains

Mike Holober
Balancing Act

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Palmetto Records
2016

buy
Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Palmetto Records
2015

buy
 

Maiden Voyage Suite

Point of Departure, WMPG-FM
2011

buy
Quake

Quake

Sunnyside Records
2009

buy
Wish List

Wish List

Sons of Sound
2006

buy

Related Articles

Read Ellipse CD/LP/Track Review
Ellipse
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 23, 2018
Read While We Still Have Bodies CD/LP/Track Review
While We Still Have Bodies
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 23, 2018
Read Ghost Town Blues Band CD/LP/Track Review
Ghost Town Blues Band
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2018
Read Toot Suite CD/LP/Track Review
Toot Suite
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: February 23, 2018
Read Love + Time + Divination CD/LP/Track Review
Love + Time + Divination
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2018
Read Gleb Kolyadin CD/LP/Track Review
Gleb Kolyadin
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 22, 2018
Read "Kind Of New 2: Blue Is Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Kind Of New 2: Blue Is Paris
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 3, 2017
Read "Cross My Palm With Silver" CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Nomad" CD/LP/Track Review Nomad
by Nick Davies
Published: April 18, 2017
Read "Live At The Magic Triangle" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Magic Triangle
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "The Moonlight Sessions, Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review The Moonlight Sessions, Volume 1
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 15, 2017
Read "Carry Fire" CD/LP/Track Review Carry Fire
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 22, 2017