Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Red Holloway Was a Hard Swinging Saxophonist

Delmark has just issued the label’s debut recording by the veteran tenor saxophonist, Red Holloway, Go Red Go! A contemporary of Von Freeman and the late Johnny Griffin at Chicago’s fabled Du Sable High, he came up under the tutelage of Captain Walter Dyett who advised his students to practice outside to develop their sound. Particularly important influences on Holloway were Ben Webster and Sonny Stitt, leading to his big, rich tone and fleet agility which certainly did not inhibit his ability to straddle the blues and jazz worlds growing up. He played on a number of classic Chicago blues sessions as well as jazz dates. His career has run the gamut to backing Charles Brown in the studio in the late sixties (with Charles calling out Red by name on a choice tenor solo) to the 1989 Locksmith Blues, recording for Concord that was co-led with Clark Terry.

Go Red Go! finds him blowing with vitality backed by organist Chris Foreman and his trio (guitarist Henry Johnson and drummer Greg Rockingham). Its a swinging buoyant date opening with a lively Love Walked In. Legendary guitarist George Freeman takes over the chair for Holloway's late night blues, I Like It Funky. The title track is a retitled rendition of an Arnett Cobb sax sender as he takes off at rugburning tempo, followed by the more romantic feeling of the standard Deep Purple, a prime vehicle to display his sensuous ballad playing with his vibrato evoking Webster with a fair amount of vibrato in his sound.

Holloway also provides his own take on Stardust, one of ballads Webster was most associated with. Sonny Rollins classic calypso St. Thomas, is an unusual choice perhaps but Foreman’s solid unison playing and chording underneath his dancing solo adds to its charm and Johnson takes a nice solo here as well. There are strong interpretations of Bags Groove, and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova classic,“Wave. Guitarist Freeman rejoins him for the delightful reworking of blues legend’s Roosevelt Sykes’ Keep Your Hands Off Yourself, that closes this album as he enthusiastically delivers the vocal with Foreman anchoring the performance and getting greasy during his solo that precedes the solos by Holloway and Freeman. Holloway may not be a great singer, but the entire performance is simply too much fun and ends a finger snapping, toe tapping recording of first rate jazz for lovers of tenor sax and organ jazz. he ain’t getting older, he’s just aging marvelously.

Red Holloway passed away on February 25, 2012. He would have been 85 in May and he had a career that spanned several decades. This review originally appeared in the July 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 318) and I received a review copy from Delmark. Here is some Red Holloway in performance. 

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