After logging some time in the arena of big bands, jazz pianist Mike Holober returns to the small group setting on Balancing Act. Along for the ride are the familiar companions of drummer Brian Blade, saxophonists Dick Oatts and Jason Rigby, trumpeter Marvin Stamm, trombonist Mark Patterson, bassist John Hebert, and vocalist Kate McGarry. And even though McGarry sings on all eight tracks, five of which are Holober originals, Balancing Act is not a strict showcase for vocal jazz. Instead, it’s pretty much a chamber jazz take on light bop where McGarry’s role in the whole thing carries no more or less weight than the rhythm section. Stamm, Oatts, Rigby, and Patterson play their horns mostly as if they were constantly reminding themselves that this Holober’s show and not to overstep their bounds. The noisiest Balancing Act allows itself to become is on “Canyon”, a track close to ten minutes in length and embodying an appropriate number of twists and turns. Apart from that, Balancing Act really does favor the mellower side of the scales.
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