Mike Holober & The Gotham Jazz Orchestra

This Rock We’re On: Imaginary Letters

Mike Holober’s Gotham Jazz Orchestra brings big-city virtuosity and rarefied sensibility to a double-disc, multi-movement program of original compositions inspired by the great outdoors and overflowing with the insights of its six protagonists: prominent environmental activists and artists who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting America’s beautiful landscapes and endangered natural resources. This Rock We’re On: Imaginary Letters is an utterly moving, long-form suite that finds pianist Holober — a lifelong nature enthusiast with a passion for canoeing and hiking in the pristine lakes and woods of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin — at the height of his deep-rooted composing/arranging expertise. A grand-scale masterwork, the album gracefully intersperses the leader’s grandiose jazz-meets-classical charts with sparser, vocals-centered art songs that convey the earnestness shared among champions of the conservationist movement in the form of Holober’s ghost-written correspondences, poetically rendered here by up-and-coming Brazilian singer Jamile Staevie Ayres. The ace instrumentalists in the Gotham Jazz Orchestra, drawn from the highest ranks of jazz and classical players, lend eloquence and heft to Holober’s save-the-planet message; they include tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby, alto saxophonist Ben Kono, multi-reedist Charles Pillow, trumpeter/flugelhornist Marvin Stamm, drummer Jared Schonig, guitarist Nir Felder and the prominently featured cellist Jody Redhage Ferber, among numerous other notables. The ensemble is augmented by two special guests, saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist John Patitucci, who fully embrace the group’s shared vision with gusto and simpatico. You won’t need a boat, a tent or a detailed map to enjoy This Rock We’re On, but listeners who’ve paddled their way through the Boundary Waters in the past might easily imagine the call of the loon inviting them back for a return trip.

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August 2024
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