Mike Holober has been Hiding Out rather openly for the past ten years or so, waiting for the proper time to gather together his world-class Gotham Jazz Orchestra and record for the first time since 2009's widely acclaimed album Quake (Sunnyside), in which his picturesque compositions and arrangements were compared favorably to those of Duke Ellington and Gil Evans, to name only two. In the interim, Holober has hardly been sitting on his hands, serving time as director of New York's Westchester Jazz Orchestra and as associate guest conductor for Germany's HR Big Band, writing and arranging for Cologne's WDR Big Band and other ensembles, and working alongside such notables as Miguel Zenon, Al Foster, Dr. Lonnie Smith, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Paquito D'Rivera and others.
As concerns the GJO, Holober has raised the bar even higher this time, mapping out an evocative two-CD set whose centerpieces are expansive suites that salute the loveliness and grandeur of the American landscape. From end to end, "colorful" is the word that leaps immediately to mind. There is no doubt that Holober loves the outdoors and does his best to capture the sounds, the ambience and the allure of the American wilderness. An exception is "Harlem," the fourth and final movement of Flow, an otherwise pastoral suite that closes Disc 1. "Harlem," as befits its name, is hard-nosed, straight-ahead urban jazz, thundering forward behind razor-sharp solos by alto Billy Drewes and trumpeter Scott Wendholt. As such, it counterbalances the suite's calmer sections, which showcase tenor Jason Rigby ("Tear of the Clouds"), trumpeter Marvin Stamm ("Opalescence") and Ben Kono on penny whistle ("Interlude"). Disc 1 opens with "Jumble," a free and easy groover whose stylistic paradigms range from '70s fusion to the Brazilian maracatu, and which features the composer on Fender Rhodes alongside alto Jon Gordon and guitarist Jesse Lewis.
Holober's second suite, the five-part Hiding Out, assumes much of the playing time on Disc 2. It was commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and enkindled by the beauty of the Ucross Foundation's ranch in Clearmont, Wyoming, where it was written. The statuesque "Prelude," amplified by Kono's piccolo and Stamm's trumpet, is followed by "Compelled," a euphonious cantata on which Holober (piano) and guitarist Steve Cardenas solo, and the brief and burnished "Four Haiku" whose exquisite harmonies lead to Holober's pianistic "Interlude." The composer's piano introduces the final movement, "It Was Just the Wind," which gains force and substance to underline forceful solos by Gordon, tenor Adam Kolker and Holober on Fender Rhodes.
Disc 2 closes with two versions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's seldom heard ballad "Carminhos Cruzados," each of which showcases Stamm's luminous and expressive trumpet. Again, Holober's admirable chart is the perfect complement to Stamm's always bright and pleasurable ad libs. In other words, there couldn't be a better way to ring down the curtain on a superlative big-band session that may have been ten years in the making but was easily worth the wait.
CD 1: Jumble; Flow: Movement 1: Tear of the Clouds; Movement 2: Opalescence; Movement 3: Interlude;
Movement 4: Harlem. CD 2: Hiding Out: Movement 1: Prelude; Movement 2: Compelled; Movement 3: Four
Haiku; Movement 4: Interlude; Movement 5: It Was Just the Wind; Caminhos Cruzados; Caminhos Cruzados
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