Allan Holdsworth Report
by Gerry Fialka
Guitar fusion master Allan Holdsworth played in Venice last month on April 4th. Two weeks later, he passed away.
But what if Allan forgot to die? His music definitely lives on. We are grateful to this maestro of musical magic. “Allan Holdsworth’s phrasing reminds me of James Joyce. His ideas, like Joyce’s sentences, can spill over to multiple pages. Tough sledding for some, sheer joy for others” wrote blogger Kingleyd on thegearpages.net. Local guitar freaks gathered to celebrate one of Frank Zappa’s favorite guitarists. Allan started the evening saying, “I’m old,” but he delivered such youthful melodic multiplicity. He knows dynamics of silence even in the midst of many notes. Age has enabled him to stress the importance of the space between the notes.
As Vernon Reid states, “Allan has ball-busting technique. People get caught up in that, but he really is a great lyrical poet.” Allan outs his inner dialogue into a never ending stream of sonic solutions, meshing T-Bone Walker and John Abercrombie into new outsideness. The dude expands music boundaries. He does not rely on cliche riffs.
Many decades ago, Allan wanted to pursue saxophone, but his Dad could only afford a guitar. Allan flipped this breakdown into a breakthrough. He plays the guitar like a saxophone with a unique flowing legato technique. That’s why Robben Ford duly calls him, “the John Coltrane of the guitar.”
He always worked with great players. A local drum freak noted that “the night belonged to drummer Virgil Donati, who was the best musician on the stage. As good as the other musicians are, there was a palpable sense of ‘what is Virgil going to do next!’ Even Holdsworth himself was caught gawking at his drummer’s ability to melodically metrically modulate within the smallest span of beats. This is what separates the world’s greatest drummers: showcasing in an instant a musical ‘ear’ as big as their chops. Donati had it all on display, and the entire room knew it.”
Frank Zappa claimed that Allan deserved credit for “single-handedly reinventing the electric guitar.” Local guitar wiz Kent Militzer appreciates Allan’s contributing a “whole new vocabulary to guitar.” George Varga’s obit in the LA Times 4-20-17 nails it: “Holdsworth’s astounding fluency was matched by the intense emotion he brought to his playing. He cleanly articulated every note, no matter how accelerated the tempo or deviously constructed the song structure. And, when playing ballads, he created gently swelling chords that made ingenious use of space and silence.”
The opening act, Cameron Morgan, was stunning. His solo fret gymnastics displays fun, taste and stellar style. Check him out, he don’t need no stinking pick.
Kudos to Carlos Nino for bringing Allan to the second oldest bar in Los Angeles, the Townhouse (aka Del Monte Speakeasy). Congrats to LA-based Manifesto Records, who have recently released Holdswoth’s 12CD box set.
All these folks know that “music is the best,” as yelped by Zappa. “All art aspires to the condition of music” – Walter Pater. Music brings people together to celebrate feelings. “Kick out the jams.” – MC5. – Gerry Fialka Laughtears.com