Red Holloway is one of the most accomplished saxophone players alive. He began playing tenor sax at age twelve and played his first professional gig in Chicago at 16. Interestingly enough, one of his band-mates at DuSable High School was a lad by the name of Johnny Griffin. At age 19, Holloway joined the Army. After completing his service obligation he returned to Chicago.
In the years that followed, he performed with Lionel Hampton, Nat Towles, Billie Holiday, Jack McDuff, Dexter Gordon, Willie Dixon, Bobbie “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, John Mayall, Red Rodney, Aretha Franklin, Sonny Stitt, Muddy Waters, Ben Webster, and many others.
Holloway has recorded a number of albums over the years, though perhaps not as many as one would expect from someone whose career has spanned almost seven decades.
|Go Red Go! 2009 Delmark
Be that as it may, it is Holloway’s most recent release, “Go Red Go!” that I am going to talk about this time around.
The personnel for this one are:
Red Holloway, tenor and alto sax
Chris Foreman, Hammond B3 organ
Henry Johnson, guitar
George Freeman, guitar (“I Like It Funky” and “Keep Your Hands Off Her”)
Greg Rockingham, drums
We begin with a spirited version of the Gershwin standard, “Love Walked In”. Forman and Rockingham lead it off, but after a few seconds Holloway steps in and takes it away. Holloway was seventy-nine when these tracks were laid down, and from the beginning it’s quite obvious that he still has his chops.
“I Like It Funky”, the only Holloway composition on the disk, is a little mellower, but still a great song. Holloway’s mournful sax and George Freeman’s guitar give it a real bluesy feel, and Rockingham’s drums combined with Foreman’s B3 work combine to turn this into what would have been a real crowd-pleaser if this group had ever played together in concert.
The title track “Go Red Go!” was composed by a fellow tenor sax player, the late Arnett Cobb. It’s another lively tune that gives everyone a workout. With a running time just shy of three and a half minutes, the song’s only failing is, it’s way too short.
There is very little I can say about Sonny Rollins’ classic “St. Thomas” that hasn’t already been said. It’s a great song, and this group has a good time with it. Again, Holloway’s playing here leaves no doubt that he still has his stuff.
Milt Jackson’s composition “Bags’ Groove” is presented here a little slower than normal, but it still has a burning groove thanks to Rockingham’s cymbals in the background and Johnson’s guitar. Holloway’s sax and Foreman’s B3 again add an incredible bluesy feel to this piece.
Finally, “Keep Your Hands Off Her,” written by the blues pianist and composer Roosevelt Sykes, takes us out on a high note. Holloway’s vocalizing is amazingly good for someone whose primary instrument is not his voice. He is joined by the whole group toward the end, and they obviously enjoyed their unaccustomed roles as background vocalists.
Here’s a video of Red Holloway performing live on a cruise ship in 2000. I searched in vain for a clip of him doing one of the songs from this album. The song you’ll hear is “Groovin’ With Jug”.
The only quibble I have with “Go Red Go!”, and it is a minor quibble, is that the two longest songs on the album are way too mellow for my taste. “Deep Purple” and “Wave” each runs over eleven minutes, which means that between them they comprise a full third of the sixty-five minute playing time.
Despite that, in my book “Go Red Go!” would make a great addition to any jazz lovers personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night.
You can learn more about Red Holloway and his music at his web site or his MySpace page. Be aware that his web site hasn’t been updated in a while and still shows “Coast To Coast” as Holloways “just-released” latest album.