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Chris Oberholtzer: Here It Is

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Sometime in 2008, a video clip posted on a trumpet geek site depicted a trombone player's unlucky efforts to land a New Year's Eve gig. Even the triangle player got called for a gig, but the formally-decked out trombonist sadly wound up home alone.

With the chops he displays on this CD, Chris Oberholtzer (formally Doctor, he's a Ph. D. professor) probably would never encounter what that lone trombonist did.

Here It Is serves up eight quality selections that don't disappoint. Recorded live, Oberholtzer and his quintet deliver some tasty, straight-ahead—if not overly adventurous—jazz. Everyone step up with high energy solos and great ensemble playing.

"KEO," one of three Oberholtzer originals, bluegaloos with a funky drive. Trumpeter Graham Breedlove of the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble, takes the first solo and sets up Oberholtzer's smart entrance and tasty solo. Pianist Thomas Snow swings beautifully, quoting "Rhapsody In Blue." "What I Do" is bossa-Latin, and features the ensemble, with Breedlove's lead and Snow's marvelous comping. Tenor saxophonist Marc LaForce gets a chance to open up inspiringly. Bassist Jim Lyden also solos with a robust sound while drummer Les Harris, Jr. drives the pulse nicely.

The trombone world's best jazz players run the sound spectrum from the restrained and tasteful to the experimental and raucous. Oberholzter appears to have emanated from the J.J.Johnson/Carl Fontana/Phil Wilson/Bill Watrous limb of the trombone tree—no gimmicks, just a great sound and tasteful playing.

"Precious Lord, Take My Hand" displays Breedlove's solid sound and Oberholtzer's beautifully constructed and understated solo over arranger the trumpeter's revised changes to the spiritual. Oberholtzer never splits his gorgeous tone as things get more intense, while Breedlove's Louisiana roots sparkle. Snow enters reminiscent of Bill Evans on the classic "On A Clear Day," with Oberholtzer's cupped melodic take silky smooth and Lyden a gem.

Oberholtzer is soulful on "I've Never Been In Love Before," displaying the interaction of melody and lyric that's reminiscent of Phil Wilson's classic solo with Woody Herman's '63 Herd on "Lonesome Old Town." Breedlove delivers an involved closed/open mute "duo," while Snow swings hard. Harris, Jr.'s driving drums open the blues cooker "E.B. II," with Snow building a solo from a two-pitch motif.

Snow shows his sensitive side, introducing Breedlove's gorgeously melodic solo on his own "Bayou Farewell" as Oberholtzer solos with a glorious tone. A beautiful musical offering, it's the highlight of the recording. "Anniversaro" is a swinging play on the classic "Anniversary Waltz," the incorporation of this selection a sign of smart producing. Engineer Mike Levine also deserves kudos for a fine job.

Here It Is, is an engaging, highly entertaining CD sent up by a group of top-tier jazz musicians. The energy level is high and the solo and ensemble playing are stellar. A superb, tasteful and musical effort.

Track Listing: KEO; What I Do; Precious Lord, Take My Hand; On A Clear Day; I've Never Been In Love Before; E.B. II; Bayou Farewell; Anniversaro.

Personnel: Chris Oberholtzer: trombone; Graham Breedlove: trumpet; Marc LaForce: tenor saxophone; Thomas Snow: piano; Jim Lyden: bass; Les Harris, Jr.: drums.

Title: Here It Is | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced


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