Ron Holloway

Ron Holloway is one of the busiest tenor saxophonist’s on today’s music scene in any genre! He has been touring internationally as a member of Susan Tedeschi’s Band but still finds time to appear as a frequent special guest of the Allman Brothers Band, Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule, the Derek Trucks Band, Taj Mahal, and Little Feat. Most recently Ron performed with Peter Frampton, Bruce Hornsby, Bernie Worrell and Col. Bruce Hampton at the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam !!! In the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, renowned jazz critic Ira Gitler describes Ron Holloway as “a bear-down-hard-bopper who can blow authentic R&B, and croon a ballad with warm, blue feeling.” While true, this only begins to touch upon the versatility of the tenor saxophonist! The quest for complete expression has been a hallmark of Ron Holloway’s music from the beginning. Born August 24th, 1953, Ron grew up in a household where listening to jazz was a favorite pastime. His parents, Winston and Marjorie Holloway were, and remain 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 and Blue Note albums. He’s a big fan of saxophone and trumpet led groups, so I heard all of the great horn soloists”. During these early years, Ron heard and enjoyed his fathers albums, but had no interest in becoming a musician himself. In October of 1966, at thirteen years of age, Ron attended Carter G. Woodson Jr. High School. It was there that he was introduced to the alto saxophone. “It was the very first day at Woodson Jr. High and I was seated between two good friends during orientation. Amongst the several speakers that day was the school band director, Mr. Arthur Capehart. He informed us that there weren’t enough students to form a complete band and needed volunteers to come to the bandroom and learn to play an instrument. My two buddies immediately decided they wanted to go up. I, on the other hand, had no such interest. The two of them kept after me until I agreed- more to shut them up, than anything else. The next morning, the three of us went upstairs. Mr. Capehart pulled out three instruments: a clarinet, a french horn, and an alto saxophone. He asked us if we had a preference. I was quick to speak up, because I had been exposed to the sound of the saxophone all my life. It was a good choice, because I took to the instrument immediately.” ( It’s ironic that thirty-eight years later, Holloway makes his living playing music, and the friends who talked him into it, quit playing after a mere two years. ) “I started taking the horn home everyday, so I could practice. As soon as I’d get home I’d start playing, and before I knew it 3 hours would’ve gone by!” A few months later, Mr. Capehart switched Ron to the larger tenor saxophone. In December of 1966, the Holloway’s moved from Washington, D.C. to Takoma Park, MD. “It almost seemed as though fate had a hand in this 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.” Ron was now attending Takoma Park Jr. High, and playing in the school band. Each day upon returning home, he would absorb valuable lessons from his Dad’s record collection. “One of the first players to make an impression on me was Willis “Gatortail” Jackson. His style was more R&B based, and therefore easier for me to grasp, at that early stage. Later, as my hearing became more advanced, I came under the sway of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, who remain my principle influences to this day. As I listened to all of these great players, I noticed something very important: They all had their own distinctive styles, and sounds. I realized this was the thing to strive for; a personal expression that people could recognize as ME!” It wasn’t long before Ron Holloway began to find his own voice on the tenor saxophone. When school let out in the summer of 1967, Ron would practice anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day. “I didn’t mind putting in a whole day of practice. I was thoroughy consumed by my instrument, and the music of my heroes.” Over the next few years, Ron would regularly participate in jam sessions with school buddies, and joined his first Top 40/ R&B band; “The Speculations”. More and more the practice of “sitting-in” became an important element in Ron’s development, and a main reason for the saxophonist’s versatility. It was not unusual to find him sitting-in with a jazz, R&B, funk, rock, fusion, blues, or even country band, all in the space of a week. Despite all of this local activity, Ron eventually felt the need for a greater challenge. In the summer of 1974, he sat-in with trumpet great Freddie Hubbard. In 1975, Ron sat-in with his friend and mentor, tenor saxophone legend, and recent Grammy Award Winner, Sonny Rollins. 1977 proved to be a most pivotal year in Ron’s career. It was in 1977 that Ron first met, and sat-in with Dizzy Gillespie! “By ’77 I was making my living playing music. I was living in an apartment close to my old high school, and a couple of miles from my parents’ house. Late one morning, I was recovering from playing until the wee hours, when the phone rang. It was my Dad informing me of a new club that was due to open about a mile from where I was living. The name of the club was the Showboat Lounge, and Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, and Dizzy Gillespie were among the scheduled performers.” On the first night of Dizzy Gillespie’s first week, Ron went to the club armed with a tape recorder. “I arrived about 45 minutes before showtime, asked where the dressing room was, and headed in that direction. As I approached the room, I realized the door was ajar, because I 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 afterwards had a standing invitation to sit-in with the band whenever they came to town. 1977 continued to be a pivotal year for the young saxophonist. It was in this year that 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 would be an active member of Rootboy’s band from 1977 to 1987. The tenure with Rootboy would overlap with a couple of other groups. “I began playing with a funk band called Osiris, which was based on the Washington, D.C. side. Rootboy was based in Takoma Park, on the Maryland side. As if this wasn’t enough of a coincidence, both groups wound up getting signed by Warner Brothers! I played with Osiris from 1979 to 1981. In November of 1981, I was off one Saturday night, and went to Blues Alley to sit-in with drummer Norman Connors’ group. After the first set, I was on my way up the stairs when I heard a deep baritone voice say; “I like the way you handled yourself up there!” I turned around to see Gil Scott-Heron coming up the steps behind me! Gil invited me to join his group. In February of 1982, I played my first gig with Gil Scott-Heron at the Bottom Line, in New York City. I was a member of Gil’s group from February of 1982 ’til June 1989.” Though he was a member of Scott-Heron’s band during this period, Ron continued to appear with Dizzy whenever the trumpeter came to D.C. “In June of ’89, while sitting in with Dizzy at Blues Alley, he told me he needed a regular saxophone player, and 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, performing for kings and dignitaries, and appeared with Dizzy on the Johnny Carson and Arsenio Hall television shows. He also recorded 2 CD’s with Dizzy. Ron was a member of Dizzy’s quintet until the passing of the great trumpeter on January 6th, 1993. In August and September of 1993, Ron went into the studio and recorded what would be released as his first CD. “Slanted” was released in early 1994, followed by “Struttin”’ in 1995…”Scorcher” in 1996…and “Groove Update” in 1998, all on the Fantasy/Milestone label. In March, 2003 Ron releases his 5th CD; “Ron Holloway & Friends – Live at Montpelier” on the Jazzmont label. Ron is the proud recipient of no less than forty-two Washington Area Music Awards, two of them for Musician of the Year. “Among the many things I would like to do, is reflect the entire history of the tenor saxophone in my playing. The saxophone is a relatively young instrument but what an illustrious legacy it already has. There’s much to be done!” from

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