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Alto’s, Shiny or Dull, Sing Brightly One For All

Age, experience, the sage like qualities of a master musician all translated into a performance of perfection by octogenarian alto player Red Holloway. He set the bar very high for his younger summit attendees at this Toronto Jazz Fest Alto Summit. His younger alto saxophone band mates, Bobby Watson, Donald Harrison and Greg Osby, specialists each and everyone, have amassed a wealth of experience playing with a whose who of musicians.

The spokesman of the group, the energy igniter for the evening performance was Mr. Holloway. The first song, "Wee (Allen’s Alley)" saw Bobby Watson lead off with a break away solo. He has a relaxed feel for the music that can flash to a powerful near tenor tone. He smoothly flows back into alto territory with that trademark mellow tone. The next soloist up was Holloway, then came Donald Harrison and last Greg Osby. If there was ever a thought by any of these great alto players of holding anything back this went out the window after the first barrage of notes by Holloway. Donald Harrison took over and blew some refined and charming lines that set up Greg Osby, who removed himself from the mainstream melody and let fly with a very interesting interpretation of the tune through the use of single note harmony. The notes flew fast and furious.

The backup band for the summit were in the groove, with Luke O’Reilly leading the way. An old hand at summit meetings, he took part in a spectacular Trombone Summit at last years Toronto Jazz Festival, one of the hi-light concerts of the year. Joining Mr. O’Reilly was bassist, Corcoran Holt, and drummer Henry Conerway III. The rhythm section didn’t let fly at the same energy level as Luke O’Reilly, who at times captured the attention of the audience and the alto summit masters. At one point during Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island," he played organ with one hand, while reaching behind and playing piano with the other hand. High energy playing that added to the full and funky island sound and spurred the alto players to dig even deeper.

On "You Don’t Know What Love Is," Red Holloway assures the crowd he does. "I know what it is, it’s a disagreement between two fools," said Holloway. Holloway proceeds to take the tune in a bluesy direction with wonderful phrasing and lyrical lines that flow smoothly. He is such a sensual player with a warm soothing tone and lightning fast runs that sneak in when the mood requires a change of spirit.

"Star Eyes" had Greg Osby starting off solo, a pure clean, clear sound. To maintain this clear crisp tone while running all over the range of the saxophone with dynamic harmonics makes you sit up and take notice. This is a player who has developed a style that is very distinctive and interesting to listen to.

Donald Harrison joins in and immediately runs up to the high register of the horn, playing in the soprano range, hitting beautiful sounding notes and running back into a mellow tone. All the while playing the tune so rhythmically. The beat and the pulse are ever present and driving the song forward. The saxophones all join in on the final chorus and in magnificent four part harmony bring the concert to a close in a glorious and spirited fashion. Another highlight summit of masterful proportions as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

As the people slowly made their way out of the big tent, Donald Harrison strolled casually through the audience, saxophone in hand. He's still playing the melody of the last song as his, "excuse me" to the lagging audience members. Harrison winds his way out of the tent and over to the HMV sales tent to autograph his CD’s and make recommendations to audience members as to his favorite titles, "I think you’ll like, Donald Harrison, Electric Band, 3D Volume 1 (Independent 2006)" he says with a cool alto sounding voice.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Alto Summit
  • Concert Date: 6/22/2008
  • Subtitle: TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival
  • Venue: Mainstage
  • City State Country: Toronto
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