Jeff Holmes debut release is a showcase for a special pianist talent and his ability to lead a group through not only his own five originals but some diverse cover material including standards such as "Poinciana" and "So Long Farewell" from "The Sound of Music."
There is a delightful air of unpretentiousness, a 4tet that pushes the music out front since their egos were long checked at the door. Holmes is a jazz Renaissance man working as a pianist, composer, arranger and trumpet player. The Holmes resume for those of you unfamiliar includes having written compositions for such luminaries including John Abercrombie, Ernie Watts and Rufus Reid. Jeff has also held down numerous stints as a respected educator Professor of Music and Director of Jazz and African-American Music studies and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Of One's Own is a laid back quartet featuring Adam Kolker on tenor, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet along with stellar bassist James Cammack and drummer Steve Johns rounding out a superb rhythm section. This eclectic jazz collective moves effortlessly between styles and walks a steady tightrope of finely arranged tunes and improvisational conversations between the participants. I've often said that I don't review "vibe." There is such an undeniable chemistry here that :30 seconds in one gets the feeling this fabulous 4tet may have been together 30 years. Bassist James Cammack has spent his last 30 years working with Ahmad Jamal and his lyrical playing provides a firm anchor of swing and articulated passion from which the group seems to build. If Cammack is the swing center than drummer Steve Johns is the groove. Adam Kolker has that "fat sound" so many tenor players are looking for but few ever find. Kolker's deceptively subtle nuances seem to be perfectly constructed to fit in and around the natural harmonic progression and flavor that is Jeff Holmes.
The riffs on "Poinciana" and "So Long, Farewell" are bursts of fresh air into some tunes that have been for the most part done to death by similar ensembles. "Labour Day" is a John Abercrombie tune that makes a marvelous transition opening with a percussive introduction from Johns and a delightful intro from Kolker on soprano. Pristine sound quality pushes Holmes sound on piano, a keen sense of melody and a lyrically driven sense of purpose keep an ebb and flow on this particular tune moving while the listener may find them self wondering just which harmonic road less traveled Holmes may decide to travel next. Keeping it all in the family we find Toby Holmes offering the tune Waltz #3, a somewhat introspective melody reminiscent of what one might find in one of the better jazz clubs in New York. Jeff Holmes handles the production end of this gem with near perfect results. While Holmes prolific talents clearly establish himself as the leader of this group, it is a true jazz collective in every sense of the word. Four voices performing as one is a rarity and here Holmes takes it to another dimension of organic bliss.
Tracks: Macaroons; Labour Day; Poinciana; The Senses Delight; One For C.J.; Waltz #3; Of One's Own; Rose On Driftwood; So Long, Farewell.
Personnel: Adam Kolker: soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet; Jeff Holmes: piano; James Cammack: acoustic bass and electric bass; Steve Johns: drums.