Plas Johnson and Red Holloway

During the big-band era of the ‘30s, musicians from different bands would often get together after their gigs and square off against one another in what came to be known as “cutting sessions.” The two-tenor tradition is the only survivor of those battles (e.g., Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray in the ‘40s, Lockjaw Davis and Johnny Griffin in the ‘60s), and, although there have been plenty of two-tenor teams since, they’re generally more amicable pairings.

Johnson and Holloway, however, take off the gloves and go to it right from the title track, an uptempo blues with a “Mojo Working” feel that also involves some solid playing from Gene Ludwig on organ and Melvin Sparks on guitar. They also crank it up on Arnett Cobb’s “Go Red Go,” written for Red Prysock in the ‘50s.

A slow blues, “Pass the Gravy,” shows just what these veterans mean when Johnson says, “There’s not too many … young players playing any decent blues, I mean blues like we know it.” Holloway’s full-bodied sound is featured on “Serenade in Blue,” while Johnson does some rich emoting on “Cry Me a River.”

These musicians are now in their 70s, so I hope they get back in the studio soon and record another as good as this one.