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This teen plays and the jazz world listens

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WHEN Christopher Hollyday first played in a club, he kept thinking about what had happened early in the career of his idol, Charlie (Bird) Parker. ``Bird played so badly that the drummer threw a cymbal at him,'' he says softly.

Well, nobody throws anything at Hollyday when he picks up his alto saxophone. Quite the contrary. They generally think his playing is fleet, brilliant, accomplished.

This fact is not remarkable in itself -- unless you consider that Christopher was 14 at the time of his professional debut and had been improvising for less than a year.

Now, at the ripe old age of 15, Christopher Hollyday is in the early stages of a flight that could one day take him into the jazz constellations. His trajectory, while highly individual, suggests some general truths about blazing musical talent and the way it can be nurtured.

Hollyday has played in numerous clubs around New England -- twice with his own quartet (including such solid jazz names as Alan Dawson and John Lockwood). He has won the ``young talent award'' from the National Association of Jazz Educators, as well as ``most valuable musician'' on the state level. He's been featured in Downbeat magazine, and has astounded Leonard Feather, a jazz historian and columnist.

One night recently, the young musician -- all arms and long neck and cherubic smiles -- took the stage in a local club. Mumbling shyly into the microphone, he fairly whispered, ``One . . . two . . . one, two, three.'' Then he took off in a way that confirmed Leonard Feather's observation in the Los Angeles Times: ``An astonishing 14-year-old virtuoso, Chris Hollyday . . . tore through his Charlie Parker licks with the kind of wild abandon that can only be born of artful dedication.''


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