Monday, December 3, 2018

Christopher Hollyday's Telepathy

Classic bop. I like that label. It's the stuff that got me into jazz once I was in college, the stuff that's invented on the fly, music that soars and wails and has more pure momentum than any other genre in jazz. I cover a lot of jazz in this blog--big band, organ trios, women vocalists, Latin and Caribbean jazz--but the jazz that really excites me is this. Christopher Hollyday's new album, Telepathy, didn't seem to stand out when it invaded my review pile, or even when I played it on the big system for the first time. But here, now, on this fabulous new headphone rig, this is magic.

You know altor saxophonist Christopher Hollyday is the real thing when his bio notes that he's "back" after an extended hiatus, that he was huge in the '80s and '90s and is now ready "to start a new phase of his career." That can mean a lot of different things, none of which are revealed in the press kit, but from listening to these six standards, everything from Freddie Hubbard's "One of Another Kind" to "Autumn in New York," I think I know. I think Hollyday's been out there, living life, playing when he can.

Jazz, of course, is about experience. You don't have to be old to play jazz, but you need to have lived through some things for those meaningful emotions to come out in the notes that you play. They need to sound real and honest. Hollyday's alto sax is a swirling, dense messenger, with more weight than you'd imagine, and it recalls a lot of different horn players who might be playing even bigger instruments. Ultimately this is about an original soul who should have never stopped recording. In his wisdom, Hollyday has realized that it's not all about him, since trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos is right up at the edge of the stage, standing next to his friend. These two bounce off each other, not in counterpoint but in a distinct way that echoes while it diverges. They remind me at times of those great sax-trumpet tandems in the old days--I don't have to name names.

The remaining members of this quintet--pianist Joshua White, bassist Rob Thorson and drummer Tyler Kreutel--aren't wallflowers. They understand the endeavor, that they re-staking a claim. As you might have already guessed, this is as pure as jazz gets. It's equal parts melody and improvisation, and while it's grounded in the past it obviously wants to remind everyone of the power of "classic bop" and how it influenced everything that came afterward.

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