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Allan Holdsworth - Blues For Tony (with Alan Pasqua/Jimmy Haslip/Chad Wackerman) CD (album) cover


Allan Holdsworth

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Blues for Tony is a collection of live cuts from a Tony Williams New Lifetime tribute band made up of ex-Lifetimers Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua, with Jimmy Haslip on bass and Chad Wackerman filling in for the deceased legendary Tony on drums. This is an extremely talented band and their take on modern jazz fusion is both intellectual and virtuoustic, unfortunately though, like a lot of modern fusion the music on here seems directed at a 'musicians only' audience. None the less, musicians will find a lot to like here. Holdsworth's guitar work is flawless and a little more aggressive than usual and Pasqua returns to a more 70s pseudo analog sound with fierce distorted faux Fender Rhodes solos that recall a youthful Herbie Hancock.

Some album highlights on disc one include Pasqua's hard bop swingin piano solo on It must be Jazz and his extended aggressive distorted electric piano ride on the remake of Holdsworth's New Lifetime fusion classic, Fred. This disc closes with a beautiful ethereal guitar intro from Holdsworth on his ironically titled Pud Wud.

Disc two opens with Looking Glass, which epitomizes what is so wrong with so much of modern fusion; a listless beat that lacks a defined pulse but allows for endless fills from the drums and bass, ethereal chord progressions that seem to modulate upwards but really go nowhere, and lengthy solos that give the effect of 'building', but also go nowhere. Unfortunately Pasqua's San Michele which follows, continues this more morose style of modern fusion at first, but fortunately this track is resurrected by Alan's bizarre psychedelic keyboard solo, nice stuff which leads to the more dissonant Mahavishnu styled outro and follow up tune, the energetic Protocosmos. Red Alert closes out disc two with some great high energy funk-rock with burning solos from both Al(l)ans and clears out the cobwebs from the disc opener.

Overall this double disc is best when Holdsworth, Pasqua and gang avoid the pitfalls of modern limp-wrested fusion for music school grad students and go for the more hard funky/rockin 70s sound when this genre had some grit and genuine life force. This double disc live set is recommended for fans of Alan Holdsworth, and also Alan Pasqua who delivers some of the finest keyboard playing of his recorded career.

Report this review (#265002)
Posted Monday, February 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Last Holdsworth's album from the first decade (of new century). Tribute album to late Tony Williams ( Holdsworth played with him for Miles Davis, and shortly in Lifetime band). Other musicians participated all are great ( Alan Pasqua played with Tony Williams as well). Majority of double album compositions are of Holdsworth or Pasqua.

I have mixed feeling to this album. For me, it is a real double album, where each CD from set are different. If first is great elegant and energetic work, with excellent balance between Pasqua's keyboards and Holdsworth's guitar sound, competent rhythm section and perfect compositions, second CD is mostly boring and never ending keyboards technique's demonstration.

All the album is very airy and jazzy. Being full electric, it have unique and pleasant atmosphere of early electric jazz/fusion from 70-s (mostly because of vintage keyboards sound).Far from early Holdsword's heavy guitar based works, though.

I think the best solution for this live album (recorded during European tour in 2007) would be just single CD with best concerts moments. But even as it is, the album remains good "jazzy" fusion work from some last years.

Recommended more for "jazzy" fusion lovers, than for fans of Holdsworth electric guitar pyrotechnics.

Report this review (#271265)
Posted Friday, March 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Team
4 stars The Tony Williams Lifetime was founded in 1969 by drummer Tony Williams as a power trio with John McLaughlin on electric guitar, and Larry Young (aka Khalid Yasin) on organ. Their debut album 'Emergency!' is a classic and everyone interested in jazz or fusion should have a copy in their collection. The line-up changed over time (Jack Bruce was there for the second album) and in 1975 Tony formed a quartet he called The New Tony Williams Lifetime featuring bassist Tony Newton, pianist Alan Pasqua, and guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Some thirty odd years later Allan and Alan decided that the time was right to go on tour with a band to pay homage to those days, and recruited drummer Chad Wackerman (Zappa, Holdsworth) and bassist Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets) for the occasion.

This double CD set brings together the best versions from the whole tour, edited together so that the listener has a complete evening's entertainment with no overdubs whatsoever (the DVD that is available is just from one night). The concept may have started as a tribute, but by the time that these songs were recorded it was morphing into a fusion band with a life of its' own. This is jazz combined with prog as the guys bounce off each other and the note density and complexity of what is being performed is quite staggering. Allan has a fluidity that is rarely matched ? just listen to the runs in "It Must Be Jazz" to see what I mean, but Alan does his best with some incredible electric piano/organ. The photo on the rear cover shows four guys with scores in front of them with simple lighting and no fancy gimmicks at all. This is all about the music, and the music is stunning. If you want music to be complex, played by guys at the very top of their game, then this is something to be savoured.

Report this review (#900681)
Posted Monday, January 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Allan Holdsworth is probably the greatest rock guitarist there ever ever was and is. On the other hand, he has made some pretty duff albums over the years. His seventies solos were astonishing slalom runs, lark ascensions, and bat-on-fire breakouts, snaking all over the chords, but chances are the band behind him were doing something pretty noodly and dull. He joined Soft Machine after the decent guys had left. He joined Tony Williams' Lifetime after the thing had cracked. He did some solo stuff, but got terrible croaky old rockers to sing on them. Then he got into the synthaxe and started making sounds that sounded like trippy keyboards, fashioning dripping wet chords out of knotted runs and ultrafast tapping patterns that melted into the very best sort of psychedelic mush. Fortunately, by this stage of his stellar, but very introverted, evolution, he was emboldened to ditch the vocals (thanks be), and make some gnarly tunes with just a cool funk bass and a thudding zappa-ish drummer to spar with, maybe a bit of keys here and there, but not too much. And he finally produced one of his masterpieces, the album Sand.

Sand is a guitar album, but not as we know it. Somehow, even when the drummer's really banging, and the bass is popping, it still sounds like it's coming up from under the sea with mouthful of, well, sand. It has dynamic variety, of course - sometimes soft, sometimes hard and loud - but these have somehow become sublimated into the obliquity of a deep dream state. And that's where the man is best, playing loud music in slunk kid gloves, merging chords and complex harmonic head[%*!#] into a funny tasting, funny coloured, curiously inexhaustible brew.

Holdsworth's next unalloyed masterpiece was The Sixteen Men of Tain. Same formula, but more guitarry. This Blues for Tony album under review, if you took out the Alan Pasqua compositions (fine though they are, mostly), and the audience clapping, would definitely be a third Allan Holdsworth masterpiece. As it is, it's more collaborative than that, but still the cat's nighty in it's own immaculate way.

Wackerman has played with Holdsworth a lot, so he knows how to modulate tumbled clatters, snicketty cymbalism and basement thuds into a crisp but glassily hypnotic understructure. Haslip too has been a comrade for a while, and he has a wonderfully fat pluckish bass tone that prods away in the right corners. He's playing the thing entirely upside down, all six strings in the wrong place, and, it's true, he does sound more like a cool dude muso than the others, but it works fine in a sometimes powdery, sometimes greasy way. Pasqua is on a Nord Stage keyboard, gussied up with loads of valvey tone-generator minge and backwards hum patches, which he alternates with broken-bell rhodes sounds. Holdsworth slips in and out like pure bottled genie. Soundwise, the band is completely perfect. Many fans of this sort of rockjazz stuff don't like this particular sort of busy but flattened dynamics, the sheer head-down selflessness of it, the equalised, almost static, landscape quality of it, but I think that's because they're after something that isn't on offer. These guys don't do bragadoccio ? at least not on Holdsworth's watch. Balance like this doesn't come off a mixing desk, it's a state of perfectly instrumented communion.

Play it loud (I do mean loud) and it completely blows your mind. Play it softly off your iTunes ten times in a row and you start to memorise the ziggurats and degringolades in the solos. Play it every day and maybe you'll figure out what Allan Holdsworth is doing. He's always been way ahead, a sort of Coltrane of the fretboard, so it's a great privilege to have these odd, rare recordings of his where everyone in the room is on equal par. That good at what they do. Concentrating that hard. And grooving, in a spacey kind of way.

Report this review (#1489874)
Posted Thursday, November 19, 2015 | Review Permalink

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