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John L. Holmes was born in Walla Walla, WA in 1950. He began classical guitar instruction at the age of nine and played his first recital at twelve. Since then he has taught himself to play many different styles such as: blues, rock, folk, jazz, free jazz and latin jazz. He has played professionally since he was 13 years old.
Holmes attended Whitman College, San Francisco Art Institute and Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn, NY. He received a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute. At Whitman, while attending a jazz history class, Holmes met visiting professor, Downbeat writer and musician, Bill Cole. Bill was able to put together a performance with students and some great musicians, such as Jimmy Garrison, Ed Blackwell, Sam Rivers and others. This was when “free music,” challenged the conventions of the establishment.
The experience of getting to meet these musicians and play in this context was a profound inspiration for Holmes. In the early 1970’s he took a year off from Whitman to teach English in Bogota, Colombia, where he and his wife, Patsy, worked and traveled as far south as Macchu Picchu, Peru. These experiences were pivotal in his approach to music composition. The influence of the Andean people as well as the ubiquitous cumbias, mambos, and folkloric festival became an integral part of his life. These elements are in evidence throughout his latest CD, The Holmes Stretch.
After returning to Whitman College, Holmes began to focus on art
and music to the point that a move away from Whitman was necessary and Holmes moved to San Francisco to attend the Art Institute. It was there that he met artist and guitarist, Takeshi Nakayoshi. This resulted in a long standing friendship and many recordings (all unpublished) and performances in the Bay Area, not just as a duet, but also often with larger improvisational ensembles. Holmes also recorded and gigged with Bob Drew (a local saxophonist who had played with Cannonball Adderly).
After experiencing city life in San Francisco and Brooklyn, NY, the couple decided to move to Walla Walla in 1977, John began collaboration with his old friend and poet, Larry Leier. With original words and music they played as a duet at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle.
They then recorded with bassist E.J. Dickerson and percussionist Glenn Ayers (a former native who returned after an extensive career in Seattle). They released a “45” under the band name, “Jazzmen Tea.”
Holmes then recorded and performed with the Walla Walla group, “Non-Stop,” featuring the compositions of Mike Friedman and Holmes, and recorded in Hawaii with the group, “Hooves,” which featured the compositions and performances of Holmes and multiinstrumentalist
Paul Noel. In 2007 Holmes released, Listening for a Vision, with the trio “Myth America,” featuring the latest words and music of Leier, Ayers and Holmes.
Holmes has spent much of his recent time recording his original compositions and performing with the group, environs and various other groups in Walla Walla. Currently Holmes and Glenn Ayers have co-produced and released a CD of Holmes’ original music entitled, The Holmes Stretch, featuring Ayers on drums and percussion, Seattle bassist, Steve Kim, nationally known trombonist and retired Whitman College professor, Dave Glenn and a strong contingent of “los amigos,” on the side.
Since the release of The Holmes Stretch, Holmes has released two CDs under different band names. The first release in 2012 was "South of America by "In Flight." The personnel are similar to JLH y los Amigos, but the compositions are shared with Ken Wilson, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.
The second release in 2013 is Tropical Reflections, by Non Stop. Once again the personnel are similar, but the compositions are shared with keyboardist, Mike Friedman. He released the 3rd album, Ancient Currents, in 2016 with the Non Stop band with Christopher Holmes on bass.