Going to hear a quintet fronted by saxophonist Red Holloway and trumpeter Jack Sheldon is a little like settling down to watch a rerun of a favorite television show, or reading for the umpteenth time a favorite novel or poem. While you might be a bit fuzzy on the details, you know the gist of the whole thing and are eager to be impressed again by the quality.
At the Biltmore Hotel’s Grand Avenue Bar on Tuesday evening, Holloway and Sheldon--two familiar hands on the jazz scene--offered nothing startling over the course of two sets, but impressed nonetheless with the quality of their art.
Holloway, an energetic saxophonist mired happily in the mainstream, is beyond having to display the screeching high end of his instrument’s range--or its belching bottom--to impress. Rather, he stays firmly within the natural range and allows his ideas to gush forth with a mature musicality.
Sheldon, his partner in this venture, was likewise able to impress with bell-clear notes that rang true as he explored the vagaries of the written song and delivered a seemingly non-stop series of improvised gems.
“Green Dolphin Street” is a song so overplayed that it belongs in permanent cold storage. But this group, spurred by drummer Paul Humphrey and anchored by bassist Richard Reid, found new life. New life was also found in the familiar “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” and “Just Friends,” two tunes that featured Sheldon’s musky, yet effective vocals. Again, working from the time-honored tradition of improvisation, the quintet was able to make each of the songs bright and fresh.
Though a bawdy little blues from Holloway and a rollicking rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” were highlights, it was the ballad inclusions that were particularly special. Holloway’s readings of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “Here’s That Rainy Day” were simply beautiful, with Sheldon accenting his co-leader’s ideas with sensitivity and style. Pianist Dwight Dickerson was accomplished in both accompanying and soloing roles.
For those who appreciate old wine in new bottles, the Holloway/Sheldon Quintet is a worthy find.