Red Holloway: St. Thomas

My two favorite versions of “St. Thomas” are on Saxophone Colossus (the reference standard) and on the fine Jim Hall/Ron Carter record Alone Together. The approaches are completely different, with Rollins' stately blowing on the one hand and Hall's quiet tiptoe on the other.

I may have to expand my list to three, as Red Holloway presents an insistent and playful take on the classic. The leader comes blasting right off the line, setting the tone with the sax and organ workin' it in unison. At each solo turn, the energy from the previous chorus is passed along and taken up a notch. Before we return the head, we've had sax, guitar, organ, and drum workouts that are constructed from barely contained pure joy. Played in a club, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the thunderous shouts and applause. Take a bow, fellas.

April 16, 2009 · 0 comments


Benny Golson: Airegin

Benny Golson writes the songs, he writes the songs: "Whisper Not," "Killer Joe," "Along Came Betty," and "I Remember Clifford," to name a few. As demonstrated on "Airegin," he interprets other people's songs, too. Quite well, in fact.

Sonny Rollins's classic has been covered exhaustively, sometimes creatively, and this is one of those times. As originally conceived, "Airegin" races along at a fast tempo broken up by some challenging changes. Golson slows down the tempo a tad, converts the opening statement to a bassline, and smoothes out the changes. And he makes the song resolutely swing.

Trumpeter Eddie Henderson leads off the solos with one that crackles, and then the leader comes close behind with a contrasting, old-school style that beautifully blends elements of Coleman Hawkins and Lucky Thompson. The other players get their turn, too, and everyone in Golson's New Jazztet plays crisp and enthused.

At 80 years young, Benny Golson is still going strong. Whether it is with one of his jazz standards or someone else's, Golson can play the songs.

February 01, 2009 · 1 comment


Greg Osby: Pent-Up House

Blue Note packaged this CD to resemble a bootleg, what with the crude "graphics" and the pseudo-provocative behind-the-counter title. The music, however, is far from unfinished and inaccessible. Osby and Moran play like inspired, more progressive versions of Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, as might have been captured informally on tape by the 1998 equivalent of Dean Benedetti. Here Osby and Moran are indeed plugged in to the modern jazz innovations of the '40s and '50s, but with a fresh individuality that is both respectful and forward looking, a clear indicator of the great music these two essential artists would continue to produce in the years ahead.

"Pent-Up House" runs over 13 absorbing minutes, with the single taping device putting Osada's reverberating bass and Green's crisply aggressive drumming up front in the mix at the expense of Moran's piano. Osby's fleet opening solo is basically a heady brew of hard and post-bop, with extended runs dominating except for an occasional spiky, dissonant aside. His pace is unrelenting, his inventiveness unflagging. Unfortunately, Moran's energetic comping cannot be clearly heard, and at one point he appears to drop out entirely. The pianist's own compelling solo is much easier to discern, as Osby is now out of the picture. Moran starts out tranquilly, but is soon flying over the keys with forcefully repeated chords and swirling phraseology. Osby reenters at the peak of his powers, like Moran before him passionately reconstructing elements of Rollins's familiar tune. A quick reprise leads to a seamless nonstop segue into the next tune and track, "I Didn't Know About You." This is live jazz at its unfettered, invigorating best.

November 26, 2008 · 0 comments


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