Ron Holloway & Friends
Ron Holloway & Friends, Live at Montpelier! (2003)
Featuring vocals by Julia Nixon
- At Last
- Cantaloupe Island
- Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On
- All Blues
Ron Holloway’s powerful tenor sax style has delighted Montpelier audiences for many years. For his first live recording here, Ron pulled out all the stops and presented a concert that last well over three hours, involved two groups of musicians, and celebrated two genres of jazz (straight-ahead and funk). Prior to the performance, I worried that it would be logically difficult to make the stage set-up changes in a timely manner, that Ron’s recording honorarium would be completely consumed by paying so many musicians, ad that the audience would have difficulty staying for more than two hours. Luckily, Ron did not follow my advice.
The result was a concert that produced more than three hours of compelling music, all of it worthy of release. In addition, the audience was completely enthralled, not only staying to the end but demanding an encore.
Given the superb results of Ron’s planning and the masterful engineering by John Yeh and Jon Miller, it was difficult to eliminate more than half of the tracks recorded and pare the selections down to the number that would fit on one CD. In fact, we are considering restoring the deleted cuts and releasing the whole concert as a two-CD set when we produce subsequent editions.
- Richard Zandler, 2003
Ron Holloway is on a musical quest. Born August 24, 1953, Ron grew up in a household where listening to jazz was a favorite pastime. His parents, Winston and Marjorie Holloway were, and are, avid jazz listeners. “My parents met while attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. They both loved jazz, and would frequently go to concerts at the Howard Theatre. I’m sure I heard jazz in the womb. In my pre-teen years, I remember my Dad coming home from work at least a couple of times a week with the latest Prestige or Blue Note albums. He’s a big fan of saxophone and trumpet-led groups, so I heard all of the great horn players.” During these early years, Ron heard and enjoyed his father’s albums, but had no interest in becoming a musician himself.
In 1966, Ron attended Carter G. Woodson Jr. High School. It was there that he was introduced to playing a musical instrument only because there were not enough students to organize a band and Band Director Arthur Capehart was forced to ask for volunteers. When the volunteers were given a choice of several instruments, Ron chose the alto saxophone over the clarinet and French horn. “I started taking the horn home every day, so I could practice. As soon as I’d get home I’d start playing, and before I knew it three hours would’ve gone by!” A few months later, Mr. Capehart switched Ron to the larger tenor saxophone. In December of 1966, the Holloways moved from Washington D.C. to Takoma Park, Maryland. “It almost seemed as though fate had a hand in timing. We had been living in a modest apartment in D.C., and suddenly we were in a house with a nice roomy basement. It was the perfect place for me to practice. From that point on I felt an urgency to pursue music and reach my full potential. This became my quest.”
After graduation from Montgomery Blair High School, Ron would practice anywhere from eight to twelve hours a day and then would sit in with a wide variety of bands. It was not unusual to find him sitting in with jazz, R&B, funk, rock, fusion, blues, or even country bands, all in the space of a week. His first Top 40/R&B band was “The Speculations.” In the summer of 1973, he sat in with trumpet great Freddie Hubbard. In 1975, Ron sat in with his mentor and friend, tenor saxophone legend and recent Grammy Award winner, Sonny Rollins.
By late 1977, Ron was making his living playing music. That year a new club, the Showboat Lounge, opened about a mile from where Ron was living. Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, and Dizzy Gillespie were among the first performers. Ron arrived about 45 minutes before show time, armed with a tape player. As he approached the dressing room, he could hear Dizzy warming up. “He was holding out long tones, starting with the lowest notes, and coming up the scale by half steps. When I got to the door, I stood in the frame for a second. Dizzy looked up, and immediately said, ‘whatcha got on the tape?’ I said, ‘Mr. Gillespie, this is a tape of myself sitting-in with Sonny Rollins at Howard University.’ He said, ‘Let’s hear it!.’ He patted the chair next to him with his hand, as if to say: ‘sit here.’ I sat down, pressed play, and Dizzy listened very intently. After he’d heard my solo, he whirled around in his chair, and with all the enthusiasm of a child asked: ‘You got your horn?’ I said, ‘No sir, I didn’t want to appear presumptuous.’ Dizzy grinned widely, and said, ‘Presumptuous - now THERE’S a word!’ We both burst out laughing.” Ron performed with Dizzy that whole week, and afterward had a standing invitation to sit in with the band whenever they came to town.
Later that same year, Ron joined alternative rocker Rootboy Slim’s band. Rootboy’s band wasn’t a jazz group, but it gave Ron plenty of freedom to develop his improvisational skills. Ron was an active member of Rootboy’s band from 1977 to 1987. His tenure with Rootboy overlapped with several other groups: the funk band, Osiris, from 1979 to 1981, and Gil Scott-Heron’s group from 1982 until 1989.
Ron had continued sitting in with Dizzy while a member of Scott-Heron’s band. “In June of ’89, while performing with Dizzy at Blues Alley, he asked me if I’d like to join his quintet! I responded with a question. ‘When do I start?’ ‘I think you already have,’ was Dizzy’s reply.” Ron toured the world, appeared on the Johnny Carson and Arsenio Hall shows, and recorded two CDs with Dizzy. Ron was a member of Dizzy’s quintet until the passing of the great trumpeter on January 6, 1993.
Ron’s first CD was Slanted, released in early 1994 on the Fantasy/Milestone label. This was followed by Struttin’ in 1995, Scorcher in 1996, and Groove Update in 1998. Ron not only leads his own groups at clubs and festivals but also plays with Taj Mahal, Little Feat, Derek Trucks, Grammy Award nominee Shemekia Copeland, Grammy Award winner Delbert McClinton, Eddie from Ohio, as well as Julia Nixon. Ron is the proud recipient of no less than 38 Washington Area Music Awards, two of them for Musician of the Year. “Among the many things I would like to do is reflect on the entire history of the tenor saxophone in my playing. The saxophone is a relatively young instrument but what an illustrious legacy it has already. There’s much to be done.”