What was it in his playing that I found so captivating, so arresting and so startling? Was it his sense of time - for he kept absolutely impeccable time; was it the driving beat -for he really was a dynamo who added so much to each composition; was it the feel- for he truly had that kind of magic which made every note seem to dance with joy and swing with abandon; or, was it his technique - for he played so seemingly effortlessly and so skillfully?
It was, of course, all these things but even beyond these attributes, I believe that it was his sheer sense of confidence and his utter ease, which caused me to marvel so. He played as if he knew without the slightest doubt that what he was playing and how he was playing were absolutely right and, as a matter of fact, the only way to do it.
I remember having seen that same thing nearly twenty-five years earlier when I saw a seventeen year-old Tony Williams in his first Birdland appearance with the Miles Davis Quintet, and I saw it on so many other occasions whenever Buddy Rich and all those other greats would sit down at the drums.
That Rodney Holmes would gradually develop into one of the finest drummers of the next decade was never in doubt, as far as I was concerned back then. The only question was how long would it take for the music world to sit up and take notice.
Over the ensuing years, even after the tragically premature passing of his earliest and most profound mentor Clyde Criner, it became clear that some of the best folks in the creative music field were, indeed, taking notice and bringing Rodney into their music. People such as Randy and Mike Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Joe Zawinul, Victor Bailey, Jean Paul Bourelly, Wayne Shorter, and Carlos Santana started calling, and the Rodney Holmes reputation and lore kept expanding.
It seems fitting that here at the start of a new millennium, Rodney Holmes is writing music and playing drums in ways which augur something new and something so very much needed in the music of the future for he is beyond anything else a boundary stretcher and an unceasing explorer of the new and the exciting. Combine his musical skills with an intellect of the first order and a sense of humor which embraces and appreciates both the subtle and the absurb and you have one of the most interesting and stimulating personalities anyone is ever liable to meet:Mr. Rodney Holmes.
Today, some thirteen or fourteen years after I first heard him in a New York City jazz club, I am still every bit as amazed and impressed as that first time for I still see and hear in his playing- so vastly improved and matured,I should add - that undefinable something which I've heard nowhere else. Tomorrow today.
Veteran jazz drummer and jazz historian Hal Miller has been a frequent liner note author, jazz history lecturer, and jazz performers for the past thirty-five years. Most recently he worked with noted historian/film producer Ken Burns, providing much of the video footage which will be seen in Jazz, a Feb 2001 PBS series documenting the history of jazz.
With his jazz video library which encompasses more than eight thousand items, Hal Miller is a frequent consultant for and contributor to television and film programs containing a jazz element. For the past half dozen years he has provided free-to-the public jazz video programs at various Borders Books & Music stores in the Northeast.
Inspired by a home life filled with music, Rodney took up the drums upon joining the junior band in the 4th grade. By the time he reached high school in Westchester, New York, he'd already decided to become a professional musician. When he graduated, although he'd earned a music scholarship to Long Island University he chose to go out on his own. And influenced by the likes of such great jazz drummers as Max Roach, Art Blakey, kenny Clark, and Tony Williams, as well as drummers like Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd, and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Holmes began getting jazz gigs and recording sessions.
Although he was not part of the inner circle in the New York music scene, Holmes' talent soon caught the attention of keyboardist, composer and musical visionary, Clyde Criner, who taught at LIU as well as at the New England Conservatory. Dr. Cryner took Rodney under his wing and put together a group featuring the young drummer. It was as if Rodney just fell out of the sky. The group recorded two albums, [Clyde Cryner-Behind the Sun] and [The Color of Dark] on RCA/Novus before Criner passed away. Dr. Clyde Criner left an incredible impression on Rodney that was both musical as well as personal. Rodney wanted to keep Criner's progressive and innovative spirit alive.
After his stint with Criner, Holmes met and worked with Jean Paul Bourelly and Victor Bailey, and then joined the group, Special EFX, for two years. With his own taste in jazz evolving toward more open music, Holmes then became a part of the Zawinul Syndicate with Keyboardist Joe Zawinul. It was also around this time that he was introduced to a Guitar player named Mitch Stein. This meeting would later turn into the foundation of a very unique electric trio called the Hermanators.
It was while on tour with Zawinul that Holmes ran into Carlos Santana in a Hotel. Santana had known about Holmes through Criner and the two decided that they'd play together at some point. And it wasn't long before Rodney received an invitation to join the Santana Band for the 1993 tour with Bob Dylan.
Holmes stayed with Santana through the end of the 1993 tour and credits the experience with giving him greater perspective on performing in rock venues to larger audiences. However, he had some other offers and other areas in jazz that he wanted to pursue. So, he joined the Brecker Brothers (performing on their 1994 Grammy winning album, Out of the Loop, and the song, "African Skies"). From that point, Holmes toured extensivley with the Brecker Brothers for two years. Holmes also went on to perform/recorded with Steps Ahead, the incredible Wayne Shorter, Larry and Julian Coryell, Victor Bailey, Leni Stern, and New York guitartist, David Gilmore. Rodney Also went on to tour and record with Santana from 1997 to June of 2000. Playing on the mega hit single "Smooth" with Rob Thomas of Match Box 20, Rodney is now a multi Grammy winner. Now Rodney is persuing new musical and artistic goals with his own music, as well as with other amazing artists.