Jazz at Holmes series to honor McLeod

Inspirational WUSTL dean offered support at critical time in series’ beginning; legendary saxophonist Freddie Washington will play memorial concert

It was a warm August evening in 1998.


Sue Taylor, PhD, applied music faculty in the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, and Steve Ehrlich, then an assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, were exiting a jazz concert in Holmes Lounge — the last of an informal series the pair had organized for summer students.

“Steve and I were crossing the Quad, lamenting that we had no funding to continue the series into the school year,” Taylor says. As they walked under the Brookings Hall archway, James E. McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, happened to step outside. “He asked us what we’d been doing.”

Taylor and Ehrlich described the concert series, the response it had garnered and the potential it represented for establishing links between the university and St. Louis’ vibrant jazz scene.

“In his quiet, persuasive manner, Jim exhorted us simply to ‘make it happen, make it an institutional fixture,’” recalls Ehrlich, now associate dean for academics in University College in Arts & Sciences. “The rest is history.

“Inspired by his unwavering guidance, and supported by his generous financial contributions, Jazz at Holmes has indeed earned a permanent place in our community,” Ehrlich says. “Today, students, faculty and friends of the university all gather Thursday evenings throughout the year to listen to some of the best jazz St. Louis, and Washington University, have to offer.”

On Oct. 6, the series — now in its 13th year — will honor McLeod, who died Sept. 6, with a concert by legendary St. Louis saxophonist Freddie Washington and his quartet.

Taylor notes that the concert was planned this past summer, while McLeod still was battling cancer. “He approved the date and the choice of artist,” she says.

Freddie Washington, a popular mainstay of Gaslight Square clubs in the 1960s, was born in St. Louis in 1937 and began playing tenor saxophone in the eighth grade. By age 16, he was performing professionally and, after enlisting in the U.S. Navy, in 1956, attended the Navy’s music school in Washington, D.C.

Washington returned to St. Louis in 1959, beginning long associations with legendary pianist John Chapman and John Mixon, a bass player who had recorded with Miles Davis. Over the years, Washington also has toured with Mongo Santamaria and performed with Wilbur Ware, Emily Remler, Leon Thomas and other notable musicians.

“Mr. Washington is one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in America,” says William Lenihan, director of jazz performance in the Department of Music, who now organizes the series with Taylor and Ehrlich. “His contribution to the tradition and craft of improvisation cannot be overstated.”

Indeed, says Lenihan, Washington is in many ways the ideal musician for a concert honoring McLeod.

“These are two men of common culture and generation, both deep thinkers and of soulful minds,” Lenihan concludes. “Dean McLeod and Mr. Washington — one a listener and great supporter of jazz, the other a great creator of the music.”

The performance, which will take place from 8 to 10 p.m., is free and open to the public. Holmes Lounge is located in Ridgley Hall, on the west side of Brookings Quadrangle.

For more information, call (314) 862-0874; visit ucollege.wustl.edu/jazz; friend Jazz at Holmes on Facebook; or email staylor@wustl.edu.