Red Holloway, the tenor saxophonist who recorded a number of albums as a leader beginning in the early 1960s and who worked with Sonny Stitt, “Brother” Jack McDuff and Clark Terry, among many more, died Feb. 25, at the age of 84, following complications from a stroke and kidney failure.
Born James Holloway on May 31, 1927, in Helena, Ark., the musician who would be known as Red throughout his career started out playing banjo and harmonica. Around the age of 12, Red’s family moved to Chicago and it was in the Windy City that he started playing the Saxophone. He greaduated from DuSable High School, where he had played in the school’s big band. After graduation, he attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music for a brief period and then joined the army where he performed with the U.S. Fifth Army Band. Settling in Chicago upon his discharge, Holloway worked with Gene Weight’s big band as well as Dexter Gordon and Yusef Lateef.
A master of both the alto and tenor saxophones, Holloway would sometimes surprise the crowds by pulling out a tin whistle from his pocket and play it during his performance. Because he was open to exploring all musical possibilities, he adapted to the passing fashions happening in blues and jazz, and could play supporting riffs behind doo-wop groups, blues bands like blues-rocker John Mayall and even trade sax solos with fellow jazz saxophonists such as Sonny Stitt.
During the Fifties, Red continued playing in the Chicago area with such notables as Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, and many others. During this same period, he also toured with, Memphis Slim, Lefty Bates, and Lionel Hampton.
The public finally became aware of Red during the Sixties as a result of his association with jazz organist “Brother” Jack McDuff. Red recorded several albums with McDuff on the Prestige record label, including the hit single Rock Candy.
Another member of this band was guitarist George Benson. The band was together from 1963 to 1966 and performed road tours in the US and Europe.
Holloway became the bandleader and talent contractor at the Parisian Room club after moving to Los Angeles in 1967. He also found time to tour with his friend John Mayall. The band, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers was one of Red’s favorite bands to tour with. In another well-received collaboration, Holloway joined Sonny Stitt for five years and the two toured all across the UK and Eurpoe as a saxophone duo.
Thereafter, Holloway often worked on his own, taking club tours and collaborating with bands such as the German Blue Flagships R&B combo. He recorded a dozen or more albums under his own name and played on many others projects. Later in life, he moved to Cambria, in central California, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor but always found time to play his sax, fitting in big band gigs with Frank Capp’s LA Juggernaut orchestra among others.
He continued to play for jazz fans around the world and performed in Europe as late as last October. He will be sorely missed by the entire jazz community.