Red Holloway: Farewell to Mr. Parisian Room of L.A.

Ed Hamilton remembers the late saxophonist

Los Angeles lost Mr. Parisian Room—Red Holloway—on February 25 at his home in Cambria. He was truly a Jazz preservationist in Los Angeles—and a musician who played with much soul and illuminated a whole lot of presence.

Red loved to play golf and go fishing. An avid golfer according to golfing partner George Campbell who was manager of Liquorama situated across the street from Red’s other home—The Parisian Room—where he was music director booking all the talent he could get when they came to San Francisco or San Diego.

I met Red in Compton about fifty years ago in 1962. Georgia Louise Hamilton, my mom, introduced me to Red Holloway when she brought home an album called Live At the Front Room by Bro. Jack McDuff. With Bro. Jack on organ, Joe Dukes on drums, a 19 year old guitarist named George Benson, and on tenor from Chicago, Red Holloway. It was my first listening. I had been locked on Gene Ammons’ sound not knowing he and Red had grown up and blown together in Chi-Town.

We last talked on four occasions in 2010: at LACMA (L.A. County Museum of Arts) Friday Jazz series; the Grammy Salute to Blue Note Records at the Nokia in L.A.; KJAZZ’s Hollywood and Highland’s Jazz on Tuesdays, and Herb Alpert’s newly-opened Club Vibrato.

L.A. had been a wasteland for Jazz when Red took over the Parisian. He resurrected and gave restored breath to the dying jazz club scene. All the old established clubs—
Pied Piper, Caribbean Lounge, The Tiki, Casbah, Marty’s, Zebra Lounge, California Club, the Sahara, were closing, even the Lighthouse which had been open since 1949. Red wanted to keep the Parisian open because in L.A., it was the place for “jazz purists” to hear the “Members.” Red wanted to keep jazz alive in L.A. Clubs were closing, leaving The Parisian as the last club standing.

Red became music director for Ernie France’s Parisian Room and from the time of his arrival from Chicago in 1974, for 17 years he brought all the talent you wanted to the Parisian and led a house band with himself on tenor. He anointed himself “The Don” of L.A. Jazz. He booked Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey, Sonny Stitt, Art Hillary, Esther Phillips, Big Joe Williams, Lorez Alexandria, Hank Crawford, Dakota Staton, Ernie Andrews, and Teddy Edwards. With the union’s agreement, Red would get them to play on their week off from the other gig in ‘Frisco or San Diego—and this was how he got exceptionally good talent.

Across the street from the Parisian, Red had two golfing and fishing buddies who ran Liquorama. It was the “after the gigs s----talking & gathering spot” run by George Campbell and his trusty side-kick Hank Green. Because he was in charge of Liquorama, Red called George “Little George” and nightly they would gather after the last set and talk and huh-rah about who had just performed. Many times Spoon would hang out with Kenny Dixon, Ernie Andrews, Donald Bailey, Reynaldo Rey and Jimmy Smith. Jimmy liked his Cold Duck and Big Joe liked his Teachers.

Spoon and Little George said, “Red was the man…Red was the man in charge of the Parisian”. Everything revolved around Red’s guidance and management of the club. He took it from being just a drive-in with local talent and made it the top Jazz. spot. There were many out of work cats who wanted to be in the House Band recounted Little George, “like Blue Mitchell, (a super trumpet man formerly with Horace) asked Red to be in the band but Red would not tell Blue to his face that he was not going to let Blue outshine him. Red was the only shining star”.

Recalling the fishing trips and golf outings, “Red loved golf, but the sob couldn’t see a lick. Red would always ask you to find his ball after his shot—he couldn't see in the bright sunlight.” Little George went on: “He sometimes wore glasses but sometimes forgot them when we played golf. But everytime he hit the ball, he’d say, ‘George where it go where it go?’ Lots of times I’d get mad, and Hank would say, “George, don’t get mad ‘cause Red won’t invite us back on his boat to go fishin.” Little George added, “See now we use to play golf and go sit out on the boat and have cocktails a lot of times. Then the next morning we’d go out on the boat and go fishing”. Little George remembers on the golf course how Red would get mad. “Everytime we played, he liked to have Tommy Tucker who owned The Playroom across the street from the Parisian. You would think they were playing for a million dollars—the way they would argue. Tucker would keep everybody’s score—if you had a five, he said you had a six and Red would burn up.”

Things were going well at the Parisian when France decided he wanted to close and move to Hawaii. Red and Little George made a futile attempt to dissuade France from closing and buy the Parisian and take it off his hands. Quite vividly like it was yesterday, Little George remembers how they almost bought L.A.’s best music scene the Parisian Room but got outbid by the Government—the U.S. Post Office.

“The Parisian owner Ernie France wanted to close and relocate to Hawaii,” Little George sadly recalled. “Red wanted to keep the Parisian open because he loved it—it was the place for Jazz Purists to hear the Members. Red wanted to keep jazz in L.A.” In a last ditch effort, they mortgaged their homes, but to no avail—the government’s money was too long. Red’s wish to keep jazz in L.A. proved to be in vain...The Government won, the Parisian Room closed. Red was unemployed and another piece of legendary jazz club history was gone but never forgotten.

Red went back on the road touring and resumed his recording career and played on Horace Silver’s “Pencil Packin' Poppa” and “It’s Got To Be Funky.” Horace said in his book Let’s Get Down To The Nitty Gritty, “Musicians all gave each other a nickname—Red called me Horatio and I called him Red Man. I used Red exclusively as a soloist on both albums—he was great.”

“Timeless” was a great album with recently deceased Etta James, Cedar Walton, and George Bohannon. Red rejoined Bro. Jack and Carmen McRae on “Live at Vinestreet”, and again on Bro. Jack’s last album with George Benson—“Bringing It Home.” Both albums had Red swinging and burning.

His most recent gigs were at LACMA, KJAZZ's’ Hollywood and Highland, and Vibrato—Herb Alpert's new club. At LACMA Red rejuvenated the Friday weekly Jazz series, then played at the Hollywood and Highland new complex. This day Red rejuvenated the 18th year season for Friday jazz at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art known as LACMA. Many people were there for the season opener consisting of Gerryck Kane on drums, Tom Canyon on organ, Red on Tenor and Jacques Lesure on scintillating guitar.

Playing hard like in the McDuff days, he mixed smooth and silky traditional ballads with some robusty Blues playing on “End of a Love Affair”, ‘Whistle While You Work”, “Caravan”, “Tenderly”, “Take the A Train.

Jacques Lesure had just arrived from Detroit by way of Atlanta before this gig with Red. “Red was a Jazz musician’s musician; an excellent tenor player; a consummate person who understood the concept of the Blues and knowledgeable of the Bebop harmonies. He never put the music to the common man where they could not connect.---that was the beauty in Red. It was the way he was on the bandstand and off. He was always funny-a jokester even while we were playing he got jokes..Red was hat I called an “O G”---Old School Jazz People type. We lost two geniuses--Red and Art Hillary..It’s quite a void left in the Jazz community”.

At Hollywood and Highland Red played with an established group: Allan Broadbent, Putter Smith, and Ray Pizzi, and recently passed Art Hillary guesting on organ on “Caravan.” They wonderfully played Tad Dameron’s “Hit House,” “Alone Again,” and Lee Morgan’s “Ceora.” Red even sang a comedic “Knock Your Teeth Out Tonight.”

Red recorded his first album (Live At the Front Room) with Bro. Jack and George Benson, and in 1999---Bro. Jack’s last—Brotherly Love. Both albums had Red swinging and burning on” Rock Candy,” “A Real Good ‘n” and a smooth and silky Blues tenor on “This Masquerade” and “After Hours.”

Throughout his career, His tenor was requested on recording sessions with Lorez Alexandria, Dakota Staton, and Etta James on her last album; Joe Williams, Billy Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Chuck Berry, Aretha, Arthur Prysock, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vincent, Jr. Parker, BB King, Bobby Blue Bland, and Lloyd Price, and Ocie Smith.

Little George Campbell and Red remained friends until his departure. Quite ironically that exact Saturday, while visiting Little George in Vegas, I asked him had he talked to Red—He said it had been awhile since they last talked—they had gone fishing.

Red once again joins his Chicago buddies “The Little Giant”, Johnny Griffin, Gene “Jug” Ammons and Sonny Stitt—they went to DuSable High and played together in the band. Now they’re reunited and jammin’ in Heaven’s Jazz Band.

Red Holloway had great presence: red hair, freckles and his Jimmy Rushing five by five rotund structure that made him a giant personality, Everyone always loved to hear Red’s horn and how he played it—with ferocity. Red would say, “Music is music, I just try and figure out how I can make that particular type of music swing—that’s what’s important—giving the people what they want to hear.” Red Holloway was an ultimate entertainer on his tenor sax and on every performance he gave you eargasmic sounds with flare, flames and Red Heat in every note blown.

1 Comment

  • Sep 11, 2013 at 05:18PM Dianes5birds

    I just loved this club. Such great music and atmosphere. No other place like it. I used to take
    Friends there. Should still be there.

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Ed Hamilton