There's something about trains, the metronomic, ringing clink-clack of metal wheels on metal track, the fanfare of the whistle, the rhythm and rumble of the coaches being propelled across a countryside. Duke Ellington loved trains, in a day when he and the band used the form of transportion to get from gig to gig. Think of "Take the A Train" and "Track 360." Pianist/arranger/composer Mike Holober loves trains, too, as his second outing as leader atteststhe big band set Thought Trains.
Holober put together a group of first call players, including Ron Carter on bass; Tim Riesrecently of Maria Schneider Orchestra fameon saxophones and clarinet; Charles Pillow (Maria Schneider Orchestra also) on soprano and tenor saxophones and flute and clarinet; and John Riley on drums.
The bandworking off of Holober's tunes and arrangementshas a bold, upbeat, almost brash feel to it, right out of the station on the eleven and a half minute "Jump Down, Spin Around," that features no less than four inpired solosPat Halloran on trombone; Joe Gordon on alto sax; Scott Wendholt, trumpet; and Tim Ries on soprano saxin front of the unwaveringly concise rhythm laid down by Carter, Riley and Holober. Brilliantly arrangedI love the way Holober pulls the band back for Tim Ries' soprano solo and rolls on for an interlude with a piano/reed duet.
The title tune murmurs in on a finesse mode, John Riley's shuffling drums leading into a swirling ensemble section followed by Tim Ries cooking tenor sax, with Holober sounding very crisp and succinct behind him.
And so goes the entire set. It's hard to figure why it took so long to come out; Thought Trains was recorded in '96. Probably Holober's fine small ensemble outing, Canyon (Sons of Sound, '03), gave him the pull to get this one out into the light of day. One door opens, another one opens...
Jump Down Spin Around, Big Sky, Waltz Medium, Thought Trains, Form x Mood, Let's Get Nice, Heart of the Matter, I
Can See My Desk From Here