Red Holloway, Jazz Saxophonist, Dead at 84

Red Holloway, the longtime saxophonist and soulful, good-spirited singer, passed away, reportedly following a stroke and subsequent kidney failure. A source told Groove Notes that he passed away early this morning (February 25th), and that date is also being reported in an article on Wikipedia is listing the date of his passing as February 24th, 2012 at the time of this post.

If Clark Terry possesses the happiest sound in jazz, then he frequently loaned it to Red Holloway regularly (who he performed with from time to time).

Holloway was a talented sideman during the course of his career, working with everyone from Terry to B.B. King, Jack McDuff, Yusef Lateef, Roosevelt Sykes, Dexter Gordon, and Aretha Franklin. He also excelled as a leader, cutting several albums with his own band beginning with Burner in 1963.

I remember seeing Red Holloway at Jazz Alley a few years back, joining the headlining band as a “special guest.” When you can’t even remember who the headlining band was, but you can remember that Red Holloway was there, it goes without saying that he stole the show.

And like Clark Terry, Holloway used his saxophone to speak, rather than to simply just play. He had the ability to communicate precisely what he wanted to say through his horn, almost as he was actually having a conversation with you personally.

But make no mistake, Holloway made time to speak during the show in the traditional sense, not just through his sax. But the mood you were put in by his playing, which was more often than not upbeat, soulful and friendly sounding, was the same mood you were put in when he spoke.

It was his singing, however, that was the pinnacle for me that evening. The two songs that he sang (This is No S**t and the Helen Humes tune Million Dollar Secret) seemed like natural humorous choices for Holloway. For those who had never heard the song Million Dollar Secret before (and even for those who had), Holloway managed to once again seem like he was communicating directly with each member of the audience, letting them individually in on one of the best kept treasures of the world.

While at the time of this post details are still coming out about his passing, many musicians who have heard the news have already made mention that Holloway wasn’t simply a fellow jazz and blues man, but a friend and a mentor, and someone who could always make them smile.