Holly Holmes

Holly Holmes


Founded in the jazz tradition, one can hear from Holly bossa nova in Portuguese, original lyrics written to instrumental jazz standards, and inventive improvisation. Equal parts Carmen McRae, Cassandra Wilson, and Elis Regina, Holly Holmes is a jazz singer not to be missed.


Please visit http://www.hollyholmes.com for more audio.

Her debut album, the Climb, reflects Holly's varied influences including Brazilian music (by Caetano Veloso and Dori Caymmi & Nelson Motta), refreshing arrangements of jazz standards (by Van Heusen & Burke and Schwartz & Dietz), including a lovely spin of Frank Loesser’s Never Will I Marry as a waltz, and jazz-tinged covers of popular songs (by singer/songwriter Bill Caskey and Stevie Nicks). She is particularly fond of penning lyrics to modern instrumental jazz standards as demonstrated by Wayne Shorter's Fee Fi Fo Fum, renamed Siren Song with the addition of the lyric. Holly also stays true to Pat Metheny's delicate ballad the Road to You, seen here as the Road to Me. The first recitation is a beautiful wordless solo, followed by an elegant piano solo, and finally closing with the melody, an unorthodox but satisfying choice, with her original lyric. Perhaps most remarkably, Holly puts the jazz back in jazz singer with her imaginative improvisation, executed tastefully on several tracks including Siren Song and I Thought About You. Recorded before the formation of the Illinois-based quartet, Holly was bandleader, co-engineer, co-mixer, and producer.

Holly earned a Bachelor of Music degree in jazz studies from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2000. In the fragile fall of 2001, Holmes was awarded an internship with the jazz programming department at Washington DC's prestigious Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. There she assisted with the Dr. Billy Taylor radio series as well as working as an audio engineer for other live performances featuring Nnenna Freelon, Kurt Elling, Freddy Cole, and many others.

In 2003, Holly traveled to Brazil as guest vocalist of a student and alumni jazz quintet representing WMU. The success of the tour inspired her to plan a return trip in order to study Portuguese language and the guitar. In June 2004, Holly was awarded an Emerging Artist Grant by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo to help make this happen. Holly spent six months living with Brazilian families in Salvador and Belo Horizonte, Brazil and there became fluent in Portuguese. She also studied jazz guitar with Celso Moreira, a well-known teacher, performer, and brother of Brazilian guitarist and recording artist Juarez Moreira. Holly's next recording project will feature works by and inspired by the Brazilian artists she met on this trip.

In 2008, Holly graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a Master of Music in Jazz Performance. Holly was the first vocalist to graduate from the U of I with a degree in Jazz Performance. During her two years in the department, she was the featured vocalist of the Concert Jazz Band and performed at the North Texas, Elmhurst, Notre Dame and Millikin University jazz festivals. She was also the featured vocalist of the U of I Latin Jazz Ensemble and performed at the 2008 International Association of Jazz Education Conference in Toronto. In the two groups, Holly premiered compositions/arrangements by Chris Reyman, Carlos Vega and wrote and premiered an arrangement of Edu Lobo's composition "Ponteio."

In fall 2008, Holly began the PhD in Musicology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She was awarded the Fulbright Research Grant in 2010 to complete dissertation research in 2011 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil about the musical collective "Clube da Esquina."


Siren Song (Fee Fi Fo Fum)

Written By: Holly Holmes (lyrics) and Wayne Shorter (music)

High upon a mountainside is she, Elegant,
Far below, Mr. Hopeful strains to see,
Then he climbs up higher and higher,
His prize to win,
Ev’ry footstep could be his last step,
Boy, love’s the peril you’re in.
Innocent eyes, you must realize her Siren Song, Prettily
Singing while you choke on love.

High upon the mountainside is he, Ignorant,
So naïve, this kitten has climbed his tree,
She’s no angel, don’t let her change you,
I’ve seen her do it before,
Narcissistic, but climbing solo’s no picnic,
You see love, but I see war,
Innocent eyes, you must realize her Siren Song,
Singing while you choke on love.

The Road to Me (The Road to You)

Written By: Holly Holmes (lyrics) and Pat Metheny (music)

The Road to You
Is paved with stars and stones,
A path stretching miles from home
And ever climbing, ever on,

The darkest dusk that grows
I’ll meet with joy in my heart,
For you, I live
Just to find the beauty within each day,
Knowing life is sweet
Whether bright or grey,
Living for the road…

To you.
And when the morning shares it’s light,
I smile, each day and hope,
You’ve found the Road to Me.


the Climb, Holly's full-length debut album, was released independently through Holly's company, a wHOLe MESs o' me Records in 2005. Siren Song and Landslide, among others, have received radio airplay. It is available at www.cdbaby.com/cd/hollyholmes and for download at CdBaby's affiliate vendors, like iTunes, MusicMatch, etc.

Set List

We typically play 2-3 (sometimes 4) 45-minute sets chosen from the following:

Old Devil Moon
You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to
Corcovado (in English and Portuguese)
It's Easy to Remember
Gone with the Wind
Siren Song (Fee Fi Fo Fum w/ original lyrics)
Desafinado (in Portuguese)

Alone Together
A Night in Tunisia
Never Will I Marry
Felicidade (in Portuguese)
You Don't Know What Love Is
the Road to Me (the Road to You w/ original lyrics)
You Stepped Out of a Dream
O Pato (in Portuguese)

All or Nothing at All
What's New?
Body and Soul
Blue in Green
I Thought About You
All or Nothing At All