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The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Thought Trains

Jack Bowers By

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One assumes instinctively that a big–band album named Thought Trains isn’t likely to include such time–worn staples as “Moten Swing” or “One O’Clock Jump.” That’s definitely true of this one, even though it does receive a “jump start” from Mike Holober’s rhythmically vibrant composition, “Jump Down, Spin Around.” All of the compositions / arrangements are Holober’s, and while they may not awaken memories of the Swing Era they surely do swing, which is among the most meaningful components in any big–band session. One’s “train of thought,” however, must remain squarely on track, as Holober’s adventurous odysseys command the listener’s undivided attention. A seasoned ensemble is needed to play them well, and Holober certainly has that, as one would expect of a big band from “Gotham” (home of Batman, Robin and, until recently, presided over by “America’s mayor,” Rudy Giuliani). No one drops a stitch, least of all the turbocharged rhythm section (Holober, piano; dependable Ron Carter, bass; masterful John Riley, drums). Seven of the tunes are medium to up, and there’s one ballad, “Heart of the Matter,” featuring tenor saxophonists Tim Ries and Charles Pillow. The ensemble shows its mettle from the get–go, easily nailing the impulsive stop–and–go accents of “Jump Down” whose burning solos are by Ries (on soprano), trombonist Pat Hallaran, alto Jon Gordon and trumpeter Scott Wendholt. “Big Sky,” a funky–Latin crossbreed, is a splendid vehicle for Pillow, Wendholt, guitarist Dave Gilmore and drummer Riley. Holober and bassist Carter share the leading role on the well–named “Waltz Medium,” Holober and Ries (tenor) on the scampering “Thought Trains.” Riley’s tasteful brushes, superlative throughout, establish the tenor on Wendholt’s powerful feature, “Form x Mood,” after which Pillow, alto Dave Pietro and trumpeter Joe Magnarelli pick up the pace on the swift and saucy “Let’s Get Nice.” The lone ballad is sensibly positioned between “Nice” and the bustling finale, “I Can See My Desk from Here” (whose earnest solos are by Hallaran and baritone Steve Kenyon). While personnel and song listings on the tray card and single–page booklet are cloaked by an ill–conceived graphic design that makes them all but unreadable, that’s a small enough price to play for almost seventy minutes of impressive contemporary big–band Jazz.

Contact: Connect the Dots Music, 319 South Broadway, South Nyack, NY 10960. Phone / fax 845–353–9488; e–mail cdot@cyburban.com


Title: Thought Trains | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Connect the Dots

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