So there I was at the Whiskey A Go Go in the early 70s, plastered to my seat in the upper tier (I think there was a high school Botany experiment we had to smoke beforehand or something—hard to remember precisely). Allan Holdsworth & I.O.U., his short-lived post-Tempest ensemble, were on fire, burning the joint and audience down with Paul Williams singing (not that Paul Williams, the other one). I walked out onto Sunset Blvd. that night dazed and blissed. Come up the years, and I'm hitting the NAMM Show, cranking away in my own amateur way at a Kleinberger guitar, a masterpiece of luthiership. I turn a little sideways and notice someone right beside me, at my elbow. His hands are moving like magic moving over the fretboard. Stealing a furtive glance, I couldn't miss that distinctive face: Allan Holdsworth. A sales rep hustles up, and the two move away, talking. I just stood there stunned. Later, Allan played, if I remember correctly, with Chuck Leavell and slayed everyone.
Allan Holdsworth is a legend…not just with the Everyman but among players. His style is inimitable, no one can copy his slurs and bends, and few can hope to match those fierce improv skills. He's the kind of musician who, when turning up for a gig in town, all the aces arrive from near and far to stare goggle-eyed. This MoonJune double CD catches him among an interesting quartet: Jimmy Haslip and Alan Pasqua, technicians normally famed for slick "MOR jazz", and Chad Wackerman, a Zappa alum and sessioneer for New Wave and other Gen X / Gen Y / Gen Whateverthehell bands. The occasion documents a live tribute to one of rock and jazz's great drummers, Tony Williams, in whose later Lifetime group Holdsworth played. As might be expected, the occasion is a chopsfest royale.
We've already seen, those of us who love fusion that is, how Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin have survived the years with little effect on their sterling craftsmanship and daunting speed. Now add Allan Holdsworth to the list. His tone and clarity are as pristine as ever; his liquid dexterity, if anything, even more velvety amidst trademarked twisting lines and flurries; his perspicacity as fine as aged scotch. Then there's everyone else.
Pasqua is toting a new keyboard, the Nord 88, which he claims is "the best keyboard ever" (okay, but I'll wait for Chick's verdict), and wastes no time testing its capabilities, serving up mosaics and tapestries. Haslip gets a few great solos but is content largely to back up Wackerman in the rhythm section…though Chad receives plenty of the spotlight as well, to the crowd's very noticeable enthusiasm. No one is stinted, but Alan's most definitely the heavyweight, and the bouncy Fred, his composition, kinda brings that back home, with Pasqua outdoing himself until the guitar carves in a very angular section making a Rubik's Cube of the tail section.
Most of Blues for Tony's cuts are quite long (see below) and, by the time the entire gig's played out, the listener finds himself sated, startled, and satisfied, not to mention smoking…from the ears. The long siege of MTV (Mediocre Trite Vomitus) music appears to at long last be over, with ingenuity, craftsmanship, and innovation again on the ascendant in many quarters. What better way to celebrate that, then, than with mind candy like this?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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