Mike Holober

Canyon

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Fred Hersch isn't the most groundbreaking pianist of the '90s and 2000s, but he is definitely among the most expressive. So when Hersch produces an album, one is anxious to check it out. Hersch produced this 2001 session by Mike Holober, a fellow acoustic pianist who shares his appreciation of Bill Evans. In a press release, Holober asserted that when he wrote the original compositions that dominate Canyon, he was "striving for a form of acoustic jazz that would be evocative of the simple joy of the Beatles, the sonic bliss of Ravel, the melancholy of Joni Mitchell and the optimism of Copland." That's certainly an enlightened attitude; Holober, much to his credit, obviously isn't an elitist jazz snob who hates all rock, R&B, and folk on principle -- and the fact that he considers himself to be simultaneously inspired by the Beatles, Mitchell, Ravel, and Copland speaks well of him. However, Canyon isn't nearly as ambitious as Holober's description might lead one to believe. This is a very straight-ahead post-bop date -- a pleasing but conventional effort that draws on the influence of Evans as well as Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock (the acoustic post-bop Hancock of the '60s -- not the fusion/jazz-funk explorer who led the Headhunters back in the '70s). While nothing groundbreaking or terribly original occurs, Holober's performances are generally solid -- and he certainly deserves credit for doing most of his own composing. Clearly, he isn't the sort of lazy improviser who has an "all-warhorses-all-the-time" policy. Canyon won't go down in history as a CD that tried to reinvent the post-bop wheel, but it's a decent and respectable, if derivative, effort for the East Coast pianist.

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