After scoring some success with A Vision Forward
(2015), Bob Holz releases his sophomore effort, this time with some extra
help. Visions & Friends (MVD Records, 2017) is a set of
The players are Holz, drums and percussion;
Larry Coryell and Alex Machacek, guitars; Ralphe Armstrong and Mike
Schoeffter, bass; Randy Brecker, trumpet on “Flat Out” and “For the One”;
Billy Steinway, keyboards; David Goldberg, saxophones; Tori Higley, vocals
on selected tracks; Rob Stathis, accompanying piano on “Eleven High”; Zoe
Stathis-Sandor, vocals on “Take It From Maurice”; and Scott Gerling,
percussion on “Take It From Maurice.”
“Flat Out” sets the tone for
this set. This lively groove crosses the bridge between funk, fusion and
instrumental rock. Brecker and Machacek are the stars, fronting the main
theme and enjoying invigorating solos. Steinway and Schoeffter get their
licks in as well. Holz keeps it all together, adding just the right touch
to whatever is happening in the moment.
“Five Times the Winner”
brings a laid-back, bluesy vibe. With Armstrong providing a cool bass
line, the composer goes through multiple moods on guitar, shifting from a
straight blues presentation to something out of a space travel movie.
During one passage, two basses are playing at the same time, as Schoeffter
injects a solo.
The ensemble cranks up the heat during the final
minute, increasing both the pace and the intensity for a climactic ending.
Goldberg joins for the bossa nova “Last Stop.” The saxophone carries
the melody, with the accompanists delivering a sound that’s for a romantic
evening on the beach. It sets the image of a couple dancing in the
moonlight with a cool breeze keeping things from getting too steamy.
Holz began his career in Boston, while a student at Berklee College of
Music. He studied with Billy Cobham in New York and went on to perform
with such luminaries as Robben Ford, Less McCann, David “Fathead” Newman,
Maria Muldaur, Dr. John and George Clinton / Parliament Funk. Also joining
Holz on tour is former Spyro Gyra guitarist Chet Catallo.
songs on Visions & Friends were written by members of the studio
lineup. Holz contributed to six, including three he co-wrote with Steinway
and one with Goldberg. Coryell composed three, and Steinway wrote two
more. The second Holz / Steinway offering, “Take It From Maurice,” is a
tribute to the late Maurice White, founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire.