Ron Holloway is one of the busiest tenor saxophonists on today's music scene in any genre! Recently, he has been touring extensively as a member of The Warren Haynes Band, in support of two critically acclaimed releases on the Stax Records label. He is a frequent guest of Gov't Mule, The Allman Brothers Band and Little Feat. Over the years, he has been a member of an eclectic list of groups, including; the Susan Tedeschi Band, the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, Gil Scott-Heron and Root Boy Slim.
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."
Ron grew up in a household where listening to jazz was a favorite pastime. "Both my parents loved jazz and would frequently go to concerts at the Howard Theatre, in Washington, D.C. 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.
Holloway 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, whom 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 identify immediately!"
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. More and more the practice of "sitting in" became an important element in Ron's development and a main reason for the his versatility. It was not unusual to find him sitting-in with a jazz, R&B, funk, rock, fusion, blues, or even a 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 1974, Holloway went to see Freddie Hubbard in concert and brought an audio cassette tape he'd made while rehearsing to one of Hubbard's recordings. During the intermission he introduced himself and played the tape for Hubbard. After hearing the tape, Hubbard invited Holloway to come back and play with him that Sunday night. He did so and at the end of the performance Hubbard extended an open invitation to sit in with him whenever Hubbard was in town.
"In 1975, Sonny Rollins led a clinic at Howard University, in Washington, D.C. The rhythm section was comprised of some of DC's top area musicians. Rollins invited several up-and-coming saxophonists to the stage. Holloway joined in on the Rollins original, "Playin' in the Yard", receiving a standing ovation from the packed auditorium, for his energetic solo. Rollins and Holloway became fast friends and remain close to the present day!"
The friendship and respect between them is mutual. Rollins has consistently praised the younger Holloway, citing him in numerous interviews as a personal favorite and a player to watch.
1977 proved to be a pivotal year in Ron's career. It was in 1977 that Ron first met and sat in with Dizzy Gillespie.
Holloway made his way to the Showboat Lounge in Silver Spring, Maryland on Dizzy's first night at the club. The first night, he introduced himself to Gillespie, but didn't sit in. He listened intently to the bands two sets, getting a feel for the bands chemistry.
On the second night, Ron arrived early and warmed up a little, in the dressing room. When it came time to hit the stage, Dizzy turned to the musicians and asked "Y'all ready?" At first, Ron wasn't sure if Dizzy was inviting him to come out with the band, at the beginning of the set. He guessed the question was intended for everyone and followed Gillespie out to the stage. He guessed right! Musically and personally, things couldn't have gone better.
Holloway performed with Gillespie for the rest of the week. From that point on, he 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, Root Boy Slim's band. Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band wasn't a jazz group, but the band approached improvisation seriously. Guitarist Ernie Lancaster and Hammond B3 organist Winston Kelly developed their solos organically, with a Jazz sensibility. This pleased Ron very much. In this creative environment, Ron enjoyed plenty of freedom to develop his improvisational skills. He would be an active member of Rootboy's band from 1977 to 1987. Holloway also played with the heavy funk unit, 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 to the dressing room 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 1982 until 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 1989, 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 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 released his 5th CD; "Ron Holloway & Friends - Live at Montpelier" on the Jazzmont label.