Red Holloway

Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL
August 28, 2010

Red Holloway

Photos by Mark Sheldon, Copyright 2010

To quote the title of his recent CD release, "Go Red, Go!" Veteran saxophonist Red Holloway recently completed a four day stint at Chicago's venerable Jazz Showcase (806 S. Plymouth Ct. in the Dearborn Station building). Red is an old-school, straight ahead player with a big, full, crowd-pleasing sound, and energy well beyond his octogenarian status, and he did not disappoint on the Sunday afternoon set that I attended. Backed by a stellar trio of Chicago jazz players, Holloway demonstrated his skills on the tenor and alto sax, as well as a surprisingly adept foray on the pennywhistle.

Launching into a hard-charging version of the Flintstones Theme, Red showed that he enjoys music and doesn't take himself too seriously. The band — Ernie Adams on drums, Ben Paterson on organ and Henry Johnson fit together like a hand in a glove, and slipped into a high level of support for their leader, while also adding excellent solos when called upon. Adams is well-known as one the best and busiest drummers in town, while young Paterson is a player on the rise - who often is called upon in various settings, but has a real knack for the blues. Johnson is one of Chicago's top guitarists, and a veteran of bands working with Nancy Wilson, Donny Hathaway, Brother Jack McDuff and Joe Williams. His brilliant support playing mostly well-worn standards on this set was a true demonstration of how to play jazz guitar.

Primarily known for his big, bold, South Side of Chicago tenor sound, it was a surprise to see Holloway pick up his alto for a luscious version of Gerswin's "Embraceable You." Holloway - who graduated from DuSable High School, also performed with McDuff, as well as just about every notable who passed through Chicago, but is perhaps best known for his work with Sonny Stitt. His alto work was a pleasant surprise, and he was aided by the strong support of this crack band.

The good time uptempo feel of "One Mint Julep" followed and had the crowd rocking as Johnson and Paterson pitched in with some nice solos over Adams' powerful groove. Meanwhile, Holloway's saxophone licks merge bop, funk, blues and soul with a mature and tasteful feel and finely-tuned technique - a combination that has an irresistible appeal for straight-ahead fans. A blistering "Caravan" was next and was a showcase for the hard working drummer Adams, who often entertains by playing the drum kit with his hands - and which he repeated here to the delight of the full house in attendance.

The highlight of the entire set, however, may have been Holloway pulling out a pennywhistle on "Old Folks." Not only was the scene utterly charming, but the reed master displayed virtuoso ability on the instrument. I guess, we shouldn't be surprised, considering the level of talent involved.

The set ended with a glorious version of Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" - a wonderful ending to an enjoyable afternoon with one of the last of the great South Side jazz musicians still standing.

Henry Johnson

Ben Patterson

Ernie Adams

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