After wait of 20 years, Holloway finds right moment to record album

November 11, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

These days, jazz is crawling with would-be prodigies, young musicians who have albums in the stores before they're even out of their teens. The trouble is that too many of them mistake proficiency for profundity, and end up trying to set their own course before they're really sure of what it is they have to say.

That's one reason it's a relief to come across Ron Holloway. Because unlike so many players, who would cut an album of their own at the earliest opportunity, Holloway waited for almost two decades before recording "Slanted," his solo debut.

It wasn't for lack of opportunity, mind. "I was actually asked about recording a record as many as 20 years ago," he says, over the phone from his home outside Washington. "I thought about it, wanted to do it, but decided not to, because I really felt that I wanted my playing to be on another level. I wanted it to be more mature."

So Holloway decided instead to work on his craft. It helped, of course, that he had a rich, full tone on the instrument -- something he credits to the influence of saxophonist Sonny Rollins.

"Sonny was always one of those tenor players who had a huge sound," he says. "In that way, he has been one of the bigger influences on my playing, in terms of trying to get the full sonic potential out of the tenor saxophone.

"I find that the younger players today do not go for the full potential of sound or tone on the instrument. They don't put as much air into the horn. And that's OK, that's one possible sound. But I have always heard, in my head, a fuller sound, a sound that was a bit more resonant and full-bodied."

It was that sound that made him one of the most in-demand saxophonists on the local scene, sitting in with virtually every jazz great who passed through town, and recording with everyone from Rootboy Slim to Bill Holland to Bruce Springstone.

But what really put his career on course was joining Dizzy Gillespie's group. "Standing beside somebody like Dizzy Gillespie causes one to grow in just about every way," he says. "Being in Dizzy Gillespie's quintet for three years, up until the time of his passing [in January 1993], really helped to accelerate a certain growth."

It wasn't that Gillespie told him what to play, exactly. "He tried to refrain from saying too much in the way of suggestions," Holloway says. "Sometimes it would be just a gesture onstage. If I were doing something that was not to his liking, he might raise an eyebrow, or maybe slightly frown. And I would pick that up."

Holloway credits Gillespie with helping to hone his taste but adds that experience is what has ultimately made the difference in his music.

"You have more to say as you get older," he says. "I feel that that is something to strive for, some degree of individuality. So I feel lucky that there was something that was always identifiably my own."

In concert

What: The Ron Holloway Quintet featuring Jerry Gordon

When: Tonday and tomorrow, 9:30 p.m.

Where: The New Haven Lounge

Tickets: $7

$ Call: (410) 366-7416

Hearing Holloway

To hear excerpts from Ron Holloway's "Slanted," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6241 after you hear the greeting.

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