Pianist/composer Mike Holober's songs brim with
shifting textures and moods, like the color changes
wrought by the inexorbably-shifting angles of sunlight
playing upon the striations of a canyon wall. Holober
spends free time hiking and climbing, and he wrote
the title tune for Canyon after a trip to Utah's
Paria Canyon, an experience that inspired a song
full of seamlessly shifting grooves.
Those shifts and changes
within a composition – done
while maintaining an entrancing accessibility – are
Holober's stock in trade.
On board for this debut effort are Scott Colley
on bass and Brian Blade, drums – two guys
giving creedence to those Downbeat Critics Polls
they've won – and soprano and tenor saxophonist
Mike Ries (who has toured with the Rolling Stones,
and let's hope that doesn't get in the way of his
jazz efforts), plus guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel.
The band's sound is sharp and clean, intricately
arranged, mostly bright and optimistic – excepting "Roc
and a Soft Place," a wonderfully dark tribute
to the late saxophonist Joe Roccisano.
Holober's piano style can
be compared to a handful of Miles Davis alumni,
perhaps: Bill Evans or Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett,
Herbie Hancock; but it's his tunes and the ensemble
interplay rather than his instrumental prowess
that hold sway on Canyon; and after seven fine Holober compositions, the
disc closes out with two standards, "You and
the Night and the Music" and "Stardust," the
former getting a piquant and upbeat treatment that
starts out with Holober accompanying guitarist
Muthspiel for an interlude of flowing low-key sting.
The arrangements here don't
call attention to themselves but are absolutely
first-rate, begging for repeated listens – and listen to Ries'
Stan Getz-esque sax solo on the closer in front
of the band's cool simmer. Marvelous!
— Dan McCleneghan, All About Jazz, October