The Red Holloway Quartet played at Jazz Live to an enthusiastic yet reverent crowd in the Saville Theatre on Feb. 8 at 8 p.m.
“These fellas been with me about 30 years,” said Red Holloway, as he was joined on stage by Art Hillary on piano, Richard Reid on bass, and Garryck King on the drums.
Since injuring his hand, Red has been unable to play his saxophone, so he invited his friend Plas Johnson to play for him. Johnson is known for his work on innumerable records including collaborations with Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole and most famously, playing the solo sax on “The Pink Panther Theme”.
“It’s like having a steak cooked the way you want it,” Red said as he reached for the microphone to start the first song of the evening. “Medium rare!” someone yelled from the audience and everyone laughed.
The crowd bobbed their heads and gave wild applause intermittently throughout the performance, often standing up in ovations and yelling for encores.
Perhaps most memorable were the songs that Red sang himself, including an original track called, “Yes, Yes, Yes” which Red dedicated to the ladies, calling them “the cream of the crop” of San Diego.
The quartet mixed strictly instrumental songs with ones with vocals, which Red lead with his smoky yet rich voice and invited the crowd to sing along.
When he wasn’t singing, Red cracked sly jokes and hummed along with the instruments. His voice went low and guttural while he sang along to one of Reid’s bass solos and he cried during King’s particularly impressive drum solo on James Brown’s “I Feel Good”.
Perhaps what is most impressive about Red is his energy and accomplishments. At age 19, Red served as bandmaster for the U.S. Fifth Army Band during World War 2 before going on to play with the likes of Eugene Wright (of the Dave Brubeck Quartet), Billie Holiday, and Sonny Rollins in Chicago during the fifties.
Each member of the quartet was a seasoned performer but played like in the prime of his life. To close out the night, Johnson played his famous solo from “The Pink Panther Theme” and “Million Dollar Secret” which earned the quartet a standing ovation.