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Red Holloway epitomized Chicago tenor sax

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Red Holloway You could hear the sound of the South Side of Chicago in Red Holloway's saxophone, his music gritty and tough and steeped in the blues. So even though he moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and lived in California for the rest of his life, he epitomized the rough-and-ready feel of Chicago bebop to listeners around the world.

Mr. Holloway died early Saturday morning in Bayside Care Center in Morro Bay, California, of kidney failure and stroke, said his manager, Linda Knipe. He was 84.

“He was one of the last of the great bebop-era saxophonists from Chicago," said Jazz Showcase founder Joe Segal, who presented Mr. Holloway periodically for more than half a century.

“He came up with Gene Ammons and all those great (Chicago) saxophonists. ... You could identify him immediately when you heard him on a record."

Indeed, Mr. Holloway's imposing sound, keening dissonances, fat vibrato and lamenting phrases were his signatures, primarily on tenor saxophone, but also on alto. All of that was apparent again in April of 2010, when Mr. Holloway returned to Chicago to play the memorial for tenor man Eddie Johnson at the University of Chicago's International House. Even after all those decades on the West Coast, Mr. Holloway practically epitomized what vintage Chicago tenordom was all about.

James W. “Red" Holloway was born in Helena, Ark., on May 31, 1927, He came to Chicago at age 5 with his mother, a pianist, and his father, who played violin. But Mr. Holloway received his greatest tutelage at DuSable High School, an incubator of talent that produced jazz giants such as singer-pianistNat “King" Cole, vocalists Dinah Washington and Johnny Hartman and tenorists Ammons and Von Freeman.

Mr. Holloway came of age musically at DuSable alongside one of the city's greatest tenor men, Johnny Griffin, who raised everyone's game. By age 16, Mr. Holloway won his first professional job, playing for three years in the big band led by bassist Eugene Wright, who would go on to become a key player in the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the 1950s and '60s.

Mr. Holloway joined the U.S. Armyat age 19 and became bandmaster for the U.S. Fifth Army Band, according to his website. Upon returning to Chicago after his military service, he worked with such jazz eminences as saxophonists Yusef Lateef and Dexter Gordon, as well as a long line of bluesmen, including Roosevelt Sykes, Willie Dixon, Bobby “Blue" Bland andB.B. King.

In a jazz resume that stretched for miles, Mr. Holloway also played for Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Ben Webster and others in Chicago throughout the 1950s. He toured with organist “Brother" Jack McDuff in the mid-1960s, and after moving to L.A. began booking the Parisian Room from 1969 until 1984, shortly before it closed.

He was also much admired for playing opposite tenor giant Sonny Stitt in the late 1970s and early '80s, and he made memorable recordings with Stitt, McDuff, Clark Terry, Carmen McRae and Joe Williams.

The stars clearly loved duetting with him.

“Like Dexter (Gordon) and (Gene) Ammons," said Segal, “he had the modern horn of (Charlie) Parker, but also the swing of Lester Young."

And a great deal more.

Mr. Holloway, who left Los Angeles about 25 years ago to live in Cambria, Calif., is survived by four daughters and a son, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren, said his manager. Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the California Jazz Foundation, said his manager.


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