The Ron Holloway Band
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The Ron Holloway Band

Washington, Washington DC, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

Washington, Washington DC, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Rock Funk


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"Ron Holloway Concert Review"

Fiery tenor saxophonist Ron Holloway combines passion and a broad dynamic range to generate an exciting and distinctive sound. Employing great technical facility, Holloway joins a long tradition of jazz musicians who have extended the limits of their instruments. As an exhilarated audience welcomes this Washington, DC native to the stage of the Kennedy Center’s Theater Lab, he responds with a hard-hitting and soulful rendition of "What Is This Thing Called Love".

After the applause settles, Holloway tells Dr. Taylor about his family’s love for jazz music. Acknowledging his parents in the audience, he says, "I was exposed [to jazz records] from the time I came out of the womb…" When he was first learning to play in the early 70’s, Holloway looked to players like Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson and Hank Mobley, because their approach was very accessible to younger players like himself.

But Holloway soon discovered Sonny Rollins, his long-time hero and primary influence to this day. Among many other things, Holloway admires Rollins’ sense of drama and the fact that he strives to maintain his individuality. Regarding individuality, Billy recalls Rollins paying a compliment to Holloway when critics suggested that Holloway’s playing sounded like Rollins. Sonny replied, "I don’t think so...I think he sounds like himself". Billy invites Holloway to exhibit his unique style with his own composition titled "Slanted", a dynamic blues number.

Like Rollins, Holloway strives to push the tenor sax beyond the limits of its dynamic range. He notes that the instrument was originally designed to play a range of two and a half octaves. By using special fingering techniques, Holloway can hit registers spanning almost five octaves. Holloway demonstrates his extraordinary range while maintaining precise control over a melody. As Holloway hits the highest register, Dr. Taylor remarks, "That’s amazing to me".

Noting some of Holloway’s more contemporary influences, Billy suggests playing Herbie Hancock’s "Cantaloupe Island". Holloway gradually builds a solo from a low-pitched and mellow intro into a high-pitched frenzy. Later, Billy asks Holloway to explain the process of constructing a solo that makes a strong personal statement. Holloway says he tries to incorporate elements of the masters’ tradition while striving to draw in his own unique elements, such as the texture of his sound and choice of note sequences.

Billy notes that Holloway had quite an influential teacher in trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Holloway played in Gillespie’s quintet from 1989 until Dizzy’s death in 1993 and gleaned many invaluable lessons through his contact with the main architect of bebop. Among these lessons, he mentions watching Gillespie’s mastery of leading a band, how he would pace material, and how well he could read an audience.

As usual, the audience provides insightful questions for Dr. Taylor and his guest. One member asks for a technical definition of a "ballad". Billy explains that ballads are different in that they rely less on rhythm for their development, but are more lyrically and melodically based.

Returning to the bandstand, Holloway hits his entire range on Rollins’ "Everywhere Calypso", thus paying tribute to his idol. Then Holloway and Billy’s trio bring the house down with an extra funky version of Thelonious Monk’s "Epistrophy" to close out the show. - NPR


Initiative, confidence and humility — along with the fuel of frustration fed by band members who jeered his unnecessarily loud sax playing back in junior high — all steered Ron Holloway to an unannounced visit to legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s dressing room at a club in Maryland back in 1977.

Holloway arrived at the cracked doorway of Gillespie’s dressing room, armed with a cassette recording of some of his playing. The jazz great graciously gave it a listen, liked what he had heard coming from the 24-year-old’s horn, and later invited Holloway to tour the world with him.

Several years after his pivotal meeting with Gillespie, Holloway’s drive scored him what, at the time, was an unthinkable gig: He sat in for an entire set of Jimi Hendrix covers with a guy named Stevie Ray Vaughan and his new band, Double Trouble.

Nearly four decades later, Holloway continues to crack open unlikely doors with his eclectic brand of sax, most recently as a member of the Warren Haynes Band and as a frequent collaborator with bluegrass-based Cabinet, which hosts its Susquehanna Breakdown Saturday, May 10, at Montage Mountain.

Holloway will roam the Breakdown grounds as “artist-at-large,” as he describes his role, figuring he’ll sit in with several bands, most notably the Scranton-based hosts.

To hear the 60-year-old Holloway tell the story of his fascinating, decorated and perhaps underrated music career, he strikes you as that under-the-radar guy back in high school who wouldn’t necessarily be invited to the A-list parties. He would none the less crash the party in hopes of making some friends in that polite way of his.

Once he starts to mingle, once people recognize his talent, he becomes a hit, the guy who’s always welcome to the next party.

An “open invitation” is how Holloway frequently refers to his welcome status with some of music’s biggest acts, particularly on the jam band scene.

Holloway and his tenor sax have gained those open invites over the years from the likes of Haynes, the Allman Brothers Band, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Little Feat and Widespread Panic.

He toured internationally as a member of Tedeschi’s band, from 2005 to 2009, before Tedeschi and Trucks, her husband, merged lineups and shed some members.

Holloway lent his sax to Little Feat’s “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” on that band’s live double album released from a series of summer 2001 shows at Ram’s Head in Annapolis, Md., where Holloway played a gig that week.

As Holloway was leaving his gig and carrying his sax case toward his car, a man outside the club asked what Holloway was carrying. Turned out to be Little Feat’s road manager, who invited Holloway to sit in the next night.

“I instinctively always approached (musicians) whether they were local or world famous with a certain amount of humility,” said Holloway, who lives in Maryland with his longtime girlfriend, not far from where he grew up in D.C.

“You probably should not approach some of these guys with a cocky attitude. I actually did see somebody get turned down by Dizzy, who sort of approached him with a cocky attitude and Dizzy detected it.”

Holloway first crossed paths with Cabinet at last year’s Mad Tea Party Jam In Hedgeville, W. Va., where the sax player presided as “artist-at-large” and the Scranton-based bluegrass band was among the headliners.

“I had never met them before, but I figured they must be pretty good,” Holloway said of Cabinet’s prominent slot at the festival. “Turned out that Cabinet was one of the most talented bands on the whole festival. Somebody probably said something to them to make sure they were aware I was there.”

Holloway has played with Cabinet about a dozen time since, including his sit-in with the fast-rising sextet at last year’s Peach Festival on Montage Mountain, a festival the saxman plans to return to this August.

Holloway said he had only ventured into bluegrass a couple other times before teaming up with Cabinet. It’s not often you’ll find a horn player in a bluegrass-based band, after all.

“I would say it’s very rare for me to play bluegrass,” he said. “But, at the same time, it was really something I was looking forward to doing. I’m always trying to put myself and the sax itself in unusual settings.”

The blues- and jazz-centric Holloway acknowledged that bluegrass is about as difficult as it gets. For any musician.

“I would say it is kind of a stretch in a way because, even though I am an eclectic player, there’s something about playing those fast bluegrass tempos that’s really challenging. I think it would be challenging on just about any instrument.

“You have to practice and be in shape and be ready to play at those tempos,” Holloway added. “I think the thing that sets (Cabinet) apart is just the fact they’re all so outstanding when it comes to being able to improvise, and play a lot of different types of music, a lot of different grooves in a lot of different styles.

“Obviously, they play bluegrass, and the play reggae, and that’s an unusual combination. I was quite pleased to sit in with them and find out they were so outstanding.”

Most of the members of Cabinet were barely alive, if at all, when Holloway knocked on the late Dizzy Gillespie’s cracked dressing room door back in 1977 for an experience he called “unforgettable.”

Dizzy was jamming on his trumpet.

“I didn’t want to disturb him,” Holloway recalled. “The door was open, so I could actually hear him when I was approaching, holding out long tones. He was going up in half steps, chromatically. I just stood there for a second. He put the trumpet down and kind of looked up at me and said, ‘Hey, what you got on the tape?’

“It was a tape of me performing with Sonny Rollins, the great tenor saxophonist. He said, ‘Come in. Sit down.’ I entered the room. I had been standing there against the frame of the door until he saw me. I sat down beside him. I pressed play. He listened very attentively. After Dizzy heard my solo, he had this noticeable gleam in his eye. He asked me, ‘You got your horn?’

“I said, ‘No sir!’ I didn’t want to appear presumptuous. We both burst out laughing. He said, ‘I tell you what, bring your horn tomorrow night.’ So, I did. I finished out the weekend at a club, the Showboat Lounge in Silver Spring. It led me to having an open invitation to sit in with him after he heard me play that first night.”

Holloway described that as one of “my most important sit-ins that I had ever been a part of because it kept me going for many years. When I first sat in with him, it was a trumpet, guitar, bass and drums.”

Twelve years later, in 1989, Gillespie decided to add a sax player to his ensemble and called on Holloway to join his band for a world tour. Holloway played with Gillespie’s band until Gillespie’s 1993 death of pancreatic cancer at the age of 75.

It was at one of Holloway’s favorite clubs, Desperado’s in the Georgetown neighborhood of D.C., where Holloway sat in with Stevie Rae Vaughan and Double Trouble in the early 1980s.

“I remember somebody telling me the band had just formed,” Holloway said. “I was there to hear him play one set. After the first set, he and the club owner were at the top of the club. I went and sought him out, and the club owner introduced me.

“I finally asked him, ‘Well, do you ever let sax players sit in with your band?’ And he kinda grinned and looked at me and said, ‘Well, what would we play together?’ I gathered from that, he didn’t have a lot of sax players sitting in with him. It seemed like a funny idea to him.

“I wasn’t aware that he was so closely related to Jimi Hendrix’s music. So, I ask, ‘Well, do you know any Jimi Hendrix?’ He looked at the club owner, and they both started laughing. That was me stepping in a hole. But he told me to come up with him on the next set.”

Holloway, SRV and his band jammed through several Hendrix songs that second set. Holloway remembers playing “Fire,” “Wind Cries Mary” and “Purple Haze.”

“I wish I had a recording,” Holloway lamented. - Highway 81




Ron Holloway is one of the busiest tenor saxophonists on today's music scene in any genre! Recently, Ron toured extensively with The Warren Haynes Band, in support of two critically acclaimed releases on the Stax Records label. Holloway is a frequent guest of Gov't Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band and The Allman Brothers Band. Over the years, he has been a member of an eclectic roster of groups, including; the Susan Tedeschi Band, the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, Gil Scott-Heron and Root Boy Slim. Ron is currently a member of The Warren Haynes Band and leads his own band.

     The Ron Holloway Band is a seven piece band the delivers a high energy, dynamic performance of soulful funk music with a rock edge.  The group is composed of Berklee College of Music alumni and Blues Hall of Fame members hand selected by Holloway for their incredible musicianship, including the two female lead singers whose voices are at once opposites and complimentary.  Within the first few months of forming, the band performed at a private New York City party for Harper's Baazar Magazine, followed The Allman Brothers performance at The Peach Music Festival, and were headliners at The Mad Tea Party Jam in WV.  "If you love R&B, Funk, Blues, Rock and Jazz and are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, F. W. Murnau, Bram Stoker, Tod Browning, Robert Wiene, Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang, Werner Herzog, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, you're gonna LOVE this!" -RHB

     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." While true, this only begins to touch upon the versatility of the tenor saxophonist! The quest for complete
expression has been a hallmark of Ron Holloway's music from the beginning.

       Holloway combines passion and a broad dynamic range to generate an exciting and distinctive sound...Like [Sonny] Rollins, Holloway strives to push the tenor sax beyond the limits of its dynamic range. He notes that the instrument was originally designed to play a range of two and a half octaves. By using special fingering techniques, Holloway can hit  registers spanning almost five octaves. Holloway demonstrates his extraordinary range while maintaining precise control over a melody. As Holloway hits the highest register, Dr. [Billy] Taylor remarks, "That's amazing to me". --

     Ron proudly endorses Theo Wanne products and is the recipient of no less than forty-two Washington Area Music
Awards, two of them for Musician of the Year. "Among the many things I would like to do, is reflect the entire history of the tenor saxophone in my playing. The saxophone is a relatively young instrument but what an illustrious legacy it already has. There's much to be done!"


Band Members