All about Jazz, December 3, 2005-- By Jim Santella
Red Holloway Quartet with Plas Johnson
Red Holloway has "been there and done that" when it comes to jazz standards and all forms of the blues. While normally his specialties are both playing the tenor saxophone and belting out blues vocals, a recent fall had left him with an injured left hand. But no worries—he just placed a call to his long time friend, Plas Johnson, who covered the tenor chair and left him to concentrate on singing.
If there is one word to sum up the extraordinary group of musicians assembled for this date, it would be: experience. Holloway himself has a ridiculously long c.v., which includes work with hard-bopper Sonny Stitt, organist Jack McDuff, and bluesman John Mayall. Plas Johnson is most famously known as the tenor lead on Henry Mancini's inimitable "Pink Panther" theme, and has played on thousands of blues and jazz dates, backing everyone from Charles Brown and B.B. King, to Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra. On piano was the elegant and adventurous veteran Art Hillary, and rounding out the instrumental quartet were bassist Richard Reid, whose huge sound and sure ear guided the proceedings, and drummer Garryck King, who swung, shuffled and soloed with exuberance throughout the evening.
All about Jazz, February 24, 2011 -- By Robert Bush
"The only thing better than a tenor sax and B3 is Two tenors and B3, and that's what's on tap here in a brand new Rudy Van Gelder recording. Gene Ludwig is the swinging organist, Melvin Sparks the guitarist and Kenny Washington the drummer no bass needed when there's those bass pedals on the B3. These blues immersed big-sounding tenor men honk away with gusto on nine tunes. Pass the Gravy is a funky down home mini-symphony at nearly nine minutes. Dig it all!" John Henry, Audiophile Audition, 12/01/01
Oldie stacks up to goodies"
too bad they don't make enough recordings like this anymore, as it's really
wonderful to see this era of music still alive and kicking. Enjoy these
two tenor titans, Johnson & Holloway, as they wail and sail along
with our own NY area legend Melvin Sparks who shares much of the spotlight
"Alright, if you have enjoyed recent recordings by Greg Piccolo, Joe Houston, Sax Gordon, and/or older records by Stanley Turrentine, Bill Dogget/Clifford Scott, Sil Austin, Red Prysock, and Sam the Man Taylor, this disc is for you! What also makes "Keep That Grove Going" so cool, is the "as always" above par recording process and sound from Rudy Van Gelder's studios in Englewood cliffs NJ. May Rudy's recording studios live on forever! Finally, special kudos to the man who more than thirty years ago signed Melvin Sparks to (sister Co. of Milestone) the Fantasy record label, producer Bob Porter, who continues to record music of this style and caliber, keeping it in the forefront of the twenty-first century!
recommend, "Keep That Groove Going!". Happy listening.
Bob Putignano, President NY Blues & Jazz, and radio host @ WFDU's,
"Across the Tracks".
A bit of
a cutting contest occurs here, and even organist Gene Ludwig and guitarist
Melvin Sparks get in on the game.
Angeles Times, May 29, 2000
On Saturday night at the Jazz Spot in Los Feliz, the instrumentation surfaced once again, this time in the capable hands of tenor saxophonists Plas Johnson and Herman Riley, with the accompaniment of organist Art Hillery and drummer Johnny Kirkwood. And the opening set was all one could ask for in hard-driving, straight-ahead, blues-based jazz.
Riley's first solo, in fact, kicked off the evening at such a high-voltage level that Johnson, at the end of the number, stepped to the microphone and drolly commented, "That's the last time I'm going to let Herman take the first chorus."
But Johnson was fully up to the high level of competition. Working through a set of material that seemed crafted for the two-tenor sound--especially in pieces such as Gene Ammons' "Water Jug" and Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas"--the two players kept raising the bar for each other.
The blues-based numbers were especially provocative choices, driving each to the heights of their improvisational skills. And in the set's sole ballad, "Lover Man," they exchanged phrases in a delightful juxtaposition of styles--Johnson's slippery, sliding phrases and Riley's blues- and gospel-based cries of passion.
Hillery and Kirkwood's accompaniment was precisely right, firmly based in a propulsive rhythmic pocket, occasionally adding solo contrast, but always interacting and responding empathetically to the front-line players.
The combination made for a rare evening of eminently listenable jazz--the sort of evening that deserves to be repeated many, many times.
2000 Los Angeles Times
L. A. Jazz Scene, Oct. 14, 2000
Quartet at the Jazz Spot
The Plas Johnson Quartet performed a two-night engagement at The Jazz Spot. Located in the back of the Los Feliz Restaurant, The Jazz Spot is a beautiful and classy place to hear some of the best musicians around. Owner Rick Clemente loves the music and his restaurant has gotten rave reviews since it opened. Clemente is offering music five nights a week and is assisted by Jim Britt. Together they've established a first-rate room for first-rate musicians.
Johnson's group included some stellar musicians: Herman Riley on tenor and baritone sax, Art Hillery on organ and drummer Johnny Kirkwood. Johnson played tenor and baritone sax. The group played with lots of fire, and energy, with plenty of sparks flying around the room.
I caught the last two sets of their second night. As I was entering they were finishing a very mellow and laid back version of 'Lover Man." Singer Sonny Craver was in the audience and joined them for a lively "Just Friends." Craver's full toned voice and marvelous phrasing and interpretation was a real treat. The two tenors tore it up with Johnson's lyrical solo, fast runs and Riley's full-powered tenor driving right through. Kirkwood's drumming added a swinging groove.
"Mama Leila,' an original by Riley, was funky and soulful with a Cajun flavor to it. Both Johnson and Riley showed off their tenor mastery on this one. "Blue Capers," by Blue Mitchell, was done uptempo and had the two sax players switching to baritones for a real punch. The interplay between Johnson and Riley was amazing. Hillary was his usual, swinging self, a real groove at the organ.
Some other classics played were 'On Green Dolphin Street," "Dolphin Street Blues," (dedicated to Dolphin's of Hollywood Music Store). The latter was a real hand clapper, with Kirkwood's drumming right in the pocket. Hillery's smooth lines flowed like wine. Johnson poured his heart into "I've Got It Bad And That Ain't Good." Riley was outstanding on "I Can't. Give You Anything But Love," on bari-sax. Craver returned to the stage to the delight of the crowd, with "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You?" and a lively version of "I Thought About You."
Johnson closed out a very entertaining night with Henry Mancini's "The Pink Panther," which is one of Johnson's trademark tunes. He played on the original and it never fails to delight audiences when he plays it.
Copyright © 2013, Plas Johnson