Red Holloway, R.I.P.
James "Red" Holloway died on Saturday in Morro Bay, CA at the age of 84. The alto and tenor saxophonist was born in the deep blues territory of Helena, Arkansas in 1927, and moved to Chicago when he was five. He attended DuSable High School, where Johnny Griffin was a classmate, and the Chicago Conservatory of Music. After service in the U.S. Army, he played with Eugene Wright’s big band in Chicago, then spent a good deal of the ‘50’s recording on dozens of sessions with blues artists ranging from Roosevelt Sykes and Big Walter Horton to B.B. King and Otis Rush, with whom he was featured on "My Love Will Never Die."
In addition to his work backing singers, Holloway’s big-toned, bluesy tenor was right at home in organ combos, and in the early sixties he began a long association with Jack McDuff. George Benson got his start with Red and Brother Jack in 1963. Holloway offers a humorous recollection in this radio interview of how the 19-year-old Benson would call him “old man” back in the day, but in more recent years, he got to tease Benson about the hip replacement and cosmetic surgeries he’d undergone. Holloway, 17 years his senior, would boast, “I’ve got all my working parts.” Also in the interview, which was conducted by saxophonist Cory Weeds in Vancouver, Red talks about hearing Charlie Parker at the Pershing in Chicago and asking Bird how he managed to play so fast. “He told me, ‘Keep your fingers close to the fingerboard.’ After hearing that, I felt like I should become a real estate man!”
Happily for Red and legions of his fans, he stuck with music, much of it the wonderfully soulful variety that traded in down-home idioms like “Hot Barbecue,” “Rock Candy,” and “Red Soul.” Here he is at Ronnie Scott’s in London with organist Rhoda Scott and drummer Bobby Durham playing a medley that includes “April in Paris” and “One Mint Julep.” In the 70’s he formed a front-line partnership with Sonny Stitt, and then recorded "Locksmith Blues" with Clark Terry for Concord Jazz. Red made only a few recordings as a singer, but he didn’t shy away from taking the mike on lounge gigs including this fine rendition of the Eddie Vinson classic “Cleanhead Blues.” He also had a ball with the California-based singer Jackie Ryan on the Gene Ammons classic, “Red Top.” We'll hear more of Mr. Holloway in tonight's Jazz a la Mode.