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“I strive for a good amount of variety in the material I’m playing,” says tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway. An understatement to be sure, as Scorcher, Holloway’s third album for Milestone, genre-hops from bop (Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House”) to calypso (Sonny Rollins’ “The Everywhere Calypso”) to soul jazz (Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder”) to rap and proto-rap (Holloway’s own “The Pulse” with MC Rip and Shorty Bones, and two tracks featuring Gil Scott-Heron). But for Holloway, such diverse musics have been integral to his development. He played with Root Boy Slim and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as Scott-Heron and the R&B group Osiris before leading his own band. For his new album, Holloway says he “was trying to find material that I could link together that had a common thread. Automatically, I become the thread when you’re jumping from one genre to the next, but I wanted it to be more than just a thread of myself and my horn. You have to be very careful sometimes when you’re covering a lot of ground. You have to make one tune follow another tune logically.”
Joining him on Scorcher are Holloway’s usual cronies: guitarist Paul Bollenback, trumpeter Chris Battistone, and bassist Tommy Cecil. But the album also features Hammond B-3 burner Joey DeFrancesco and DeFrancesco’s drummer, Byron Landham. In fact, with Bollenback, it features DeFrancesco’s entire trio. “Paul is like a bridge on this recording. He and I play together quite a bit when he’s in town.” And though his association with DeFrancesco is new, Holloway says the two “are influenced by a lot of the same music. We have a lot of the same musical heroes. We also happen to have a lot of common ground in terms of our musical goals. That’s why I chose these guys to play with. They’re kindred spirits.” Holloway also talks about the groove-heavy history of the sax-Hammond combination. “There’s a whole tradition of tenor saxophone and organ that goes back a few decades. Of course, we don’t approach it the same way you’d hear it on the so-called chitlin’ circuit. Things are a bit more open-ended now.”—Christopher Porter