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CD Review: Redd Holt “It’s A Take!”

By Hrayr Attarian

Redd Holt It’s A Take!

Redd Holt – Drums

Jim Ryan – Piano, Keyboards

Ken Haebich – Bass

Shannon O’Neill – Trumpet (4)

Drummer Redd Holt has a long and illustrious career that straddles the idioms of jazz and soul. An original member of pianist Ramsey Lewis’ trio in the 1950s, Holt founded the successful Young-Holt Unlimited with bassist Eldee Young. The instrumental ensemble scored a number of hits—even receiving a gold record. Since 1974 Holt has been very active leading various groups in and around Chicago.

At age eighty-five, Holt—with his working trio of keyboardist Jim Ryan and bassist Ken Haebich—cut his first album as a leader, the enjoyable It’s A Take! on the Treehouse label. Released only in vinyl and digital formats, the recording consists of eight standards interpreted with gusto and élan. For instance, a tense and passionate take of “Stolen Moments” features Ryan’s intricate and blues-drenched embellishments and elegant, reserved solos from Haebich and Holt. The collective sound builds a dramatic ambience.

Elsewhere, “Estate” unfolds like a 1970s film soundtrack. The unabashedly romantic and effervescent tune has an enchanting atmosphere thanks to Ryan’s resonant refrains, Haebich’s measured thumps, and Holt’s softly brushed drums. Similarly delightful synergy is demonstrated on the Latin-flavored “Green Dolphin Street.” Holt and Ryan engage in a lovely duet while Haebich muses lyrically in the background.

Guest trumpeter Shannon O’Neil plays the main theme of “Killer Joe” with burnished tones that set a cinematic mood. Ryan launches into a funky improvisation that remains close to the melody and progresses over a restless beat. Another intriguing rendition is the tango-esque “Golden Lady.” The trio delivers a warm ensemble performance with percussive tones and overlapping, vibrant refrains. Ryan and Holt spar with agility and an urbane flair.

It’s A Take! neither breaks new ground nor is it provocative. It is, however, a charming divertissement that showcases the trio’s superb camaraderie and Holt’s restless energy and creative wit—both unhampered by age.

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