Christopher Hollyday Returns

Hollyday001

TELEPATHY / HUBBARD: One of Another Kind. POWELL: Hallucinations. DENNIS: Everything Happens. DUKE: Autumn in New York. ARLEN: I’ve Got the World on a String. PARKER: Segment / Christopher Hollyday, a-sax; Gilbert Castellanos, tpt; Joshua White, pno; Rob Thorsen, bs; Tyler Kreutel, dm / Jazzbeat Productions (available at http://www.christopherhollyday.com)

Christopher Hollyday, who first came to prominence in the 1980s, was considered a reactionary in his time, a musician who mostly played older, pre-free and fusion jazz. In this new album, there is a touch of fusion in Freddie Hubbard’s One of Another Kind, but his proclivities remain in the bop and swing fields. The difference is that, nowadays, there are dozens of artists who are doing the same thing, so he’s now in line with many other jazz artists.

One of the more interesting things about his performance on One of Another Kind is that his alto sax sounds suspiciously like a soprano. How he manages to stay so high up in the horn’s range is a bit of a mystery; some alto players certainly do ascend the scale for certain passages, but in his first solo Hollyday stays up there. Incredible chops. Gilbert Castellanos is a trumpeter who also harks back to the bop era, sounding like a disciple of Dizzy or Red Rodney (certainly not bad models), and pianist Joshua White swings a bit like Horace Silver. Except for the more modern, digital sonics, you almost feel as if you’re back in the early 1960s when bop was still part of the jazz mainstream.

I especially liked the tight, asymmetric arrangement of Bud Powell’s Hallucinations, and I was delighted by the drive and zest of this band. Hollyday still sounds soprano-ish here, but plays at least half of his solo in a more conventional alto register. Amazing, however, that his tone is so tight and vibrato-less; in this respect, at least, he resembles more modern jazz altoists rather than such older models as Bird and his disciples with their fuller, bluesier tones. The band keeps up their happy demeanor in Matt Dennis’ Everything Happens, which features an outstanding muted solo by Castellanos in his best Dizzy Gillespie manner. Hollyday, though his tone is less gritty, also pays a bit of tribute to Charlie Parker with some fairly authentic-sounding Bird-like improvisation.

Autumn in New York is taken at a very slow ballad tempo, with Hollyday sounding like a cross between Bird and Lee Konitz (Bird’s style, Konitz’ tone). White’s double-time, single-note solo is also very nice. I’ve Got the World on a String also uses a sparse arrangement with the leader front and center over the rhythm section, with Castellanos playing muted trumpet in the middle eight of the first chorus. One of the nice things about this performance is the way the solos dovetail into each other, feeding off each others’ ideas.

The finale, Parker’s Segment, is another tight, clever arrangement for the band, played uptempo and really cooking when the rhythm section unleashes its swing. Hollyday has, by this time, shaken off his soprano-sax leanings and is in full Bird mode. He even throws in an authentic Bird lick in his extended solo, one of the things that some critics called him out on back in the ‘80s, but is mostly original. Castellanos shakes off his Gillespie imitation, however, to produce a really fine bop solo with a few high-note outbursts, and pianist White is back in his own ‘50s groove.

Overall, a fine album. Traditional bop it may be, but very well and enthusiastically played.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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