Critics have described the fine U.S. jazz band Holophonor as capable of playing a key part in the future of the genre; that will be welcome news for fans who appreciate accomplished players but unchallenging arrangements.
The seven-piece is loaded with potential, so much so that jazz legend Wayne Shorter signed on to produce this sophomore release. Trumpet player Mike Cottone, an alumnus of both the Juilliard School and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is a standout. (Each of the band members attended the Monk Institute, which is where they agreed to work together.) Pianist Miro Sprague and Vibraphonist Diego Urbano deliver equally impressive performances on this 12-track disc.
Without question, though, it's drummer Jonathan Pinson that shines brightest here. The Los Angeles-native has toured with Shorter, Herbie Hancock and others. He's a superstar in training, a traditionalist who plays with the kind of controlled freneticism that all great jazz is built on.
Unfortunately, Holophonor as a unit aren't yet producing great jazz. Good jazz, absolutely — but there's a streak of formality running through these tracks that keeps the album from being truly memorable. Perhaps we can chalk that up to the relative youth of the members, along with their recently acquired training.
A couple of notable positives, though: "Invisible Cities" features inspired interplay between Cottone and alto sax player Josh Johnson, even if it's a bit too controlled. You'll also be impressed by Diego Urbano's vibes on "Ignore the Unicorn in the Room."
"Pioneer Intro" is another interesting number, albeit a short one. Reminiscent of Miles Davis's influential In a Silent Way, it's one of the reasons we've come away from this well-meaning disc still optimistic about Holophonor's future. (World Galaxy Records)