ALBUM REVIEWS : *** CHRISTOPHER HOLLYDAY "On Course" RCA Novus

Altoist Hollyday, barely 20 and here with his second Novus release, is an amazingly mature musician for his age. He plays with poise and bravura, offers crisp statements that are neither short on feeling nor interest and writes tunes that take the listener on journeys to a number of exotic musical islands.

Hollyday is not, as yet, terribly original: the stamp of his idol, Jackie McLean, is everywhere--in his dry, crying tone, in his arched phrasing, in his mood-swaying compositions. This album reminds one of McLean's mid-'60s oeuvre, particularly the Blue Note classic, "One Step Beyond"; still, if you're going to emulate, there are worse sources.

The 10 selections, all by Hollyday save "Memories of You," flow from one to the next, and most have a hard yet very accessible drive at their core. "The 6th World" reveals a stately, leaping theme that leads to improvisations over moderate 3/4 and fervid 4/4 settings; "West Side Winds" shifts from a bossa nova to a ballad; and "No Second Quarter" is straight-forward modern blowing.

Pianist John Goldings, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Ron Savage are the solid sidekicks. As Hollyday discovers his own stories to tell, he may well become that rare bird: the innovative artist.

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