Teenage Musician Chris Hollyday Nearly Always Has Sax on His Mind

updated 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Christopher Hollyday, 18, flips through his wallet, leafing past pictures of family and friends to a color photo of an alto sax. "That's my main girl," he says coyly.

His loyalty is understandable: That "girl" has been good to him. Another photo of Hollyday's sax—this one on his bedroom wall in Norwood, Mass.—is surrounded by awards heralding him as one of the country's hottest young bebop saxophonists. Hollyday already has a record deal with the RBI jazz label, which just released his LP, Reverence. "His music affected me," says trumpet great Dizzy Gillespie, who invited Hollyday to play with him at a Boston Jazz Society performance. "He seemed to have his head together. He has a great future."

In fact, Gillespie was one of Hollyday's earliest influences. Chris's father, Dick, an outdoor-power-equipment salesman who doubles as Chris's manager, used to play his Gillespie and Charlie Parker records practically nonstop in order to give his family a jazz education. When Chris, the youngest of three kids, rented his first sax from school at 9, he mimicked the jazz style he had heard. "I didn't even know how to hold it," he says, "but I was playing the sax all night. To others, it probably sounded awful. But to me, it sounded great." With tips from his trumpet-playing brother, Richard, and some training at Boston's Berklee College of Music, he mastered the instrument, and by 14 he had memorized most of Parker's recorded riffs. "I would learn them in every key until they were locked into my skull," says Chris.

Next fall, Hollyday, who played his first club date at 13, will move on to Manhattan, where he has a full music scholarship at the New School. For now, though, he has a few other things on his mind. "Come July and August," he says, "it's fun at the beach—and lots of girls."

From Our Partners