While I was on the road came the sad news that the Southern California jazz community lost two of its stalwarts days apart. The irrepressible tenor saxophonist Red Holloway died last Saturday at a nursing home in Morro Bay on the central California coast, not far Cambria, where he moved more than four decades ago. He was 84. Pianist Mike Melvoin died February 22 at the age of 74.
With Cambria as his base, Holloway played far and wide with Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, Horace Silver and many other leading mainstream figures. He frequently appeared and recorded with Cambria’s other name jazz artist, vibraharpist Charlie Shoemake. Among those with whom Holloway worked earlier in his career, were Lionel Hampton, Eugene Wright, Jack McDuff and blues artists including Willie Dixon and B.B. King. He was a favorite colleague of singers, among them Joe Williams, Carmen McRae and, recently, Jackie Ryan. Here is Holloway playing “Now’s The Time” in 1995 with Massimo Farao, piano; Lady Bass (Lindy Huppertsberg), bass; and Bobbie Durham, drums.
Mike Melvoin died of cancer in a Burbank hospital. In addition to his role as one of the busiest jazz pianists in Los Angeles, he had a parallel career in motion picture and television studios as a player, composer and arranger. His studio work included recordings as dissimilar as those of Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, Diana Ross and the Beach Boys. In the 1980s, Melvoin became the first jazz musician to be elected president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). He worked to maintain the integrity of the academy’s Grammy awards at a time when nonmusical factors were beginning to carry increasing weight. In recent years, he tried to reverse changes in academy rules that eliminated Grammy categories concentrating on instrumentalists. In 2011, he said, “Everyone who has ever played an instrument has had the possibility of receiving recognition from the Grammys gutted. That cannot and will not stand.” So far, however, it has.
Here is Melvoin in December at a celebration honoring his 50 years in music. His companions are tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Ralph Penland.
Mike Melvoin and Red Holloway, RIP