Earlier in his career, it was a commonly held view that Allan Holdsworth was criminally unknown and chronically underrated. Fortunately, the last few decades have seen him achieve some deserved commercial success. Metal Fatigue, from 1985, was something of a breakthrough, but I.O.U. (1982), which featured tonight’s drummer Gary Husband, sold well and marked a turning point in the development of the Allan Holdsworth sound. Today, he is one of the many British guitarists who occupy exalted status in the jazz or rock world.
Jimmy Johnson, bassist on tonight’s gig has also worked with Holdsworth since the 1980s; these guys know each other’s playing well. The band play with precision and accuracy despite the complex harmony and shifting time signatures. There are extended solos for bass – and several high-energy workouts for drums. Possibly a bit too high-energy, given the unnecessarily loud mix at what is, after all, an intimate venue. Still, if you could bottle what Gary Husband runs on, you could sell it and make a fortune.
Holdsworth plays a Steinberger headless guitar, harmonising the melody with his distinctive chord voicings and a gently chorused sound. For solos, his tone is rich and creamy – and at times heavily processed and synth-like. He is justifiably famous for his smooth, legato single-note runs, executed at astonishing pace and involving prodigious intervallic leaps. He plays long, roller-coaster phrases, dipping, diving and rising again, supported by the busy interplay of the rhythm section.
Holdsworth has his roots in jazz, but much of his recorded output is bought but rock guitar fans who have little time for jazz. In fact, he occupies the ground somewhere between jazz and progressive rock and has honed and polished an instantly recognizable guitar sound and musical style. He solos effortlessly over the most complicated chord sequences like a jazz player – but with a rock guitarist’s approach to tone and guitar effects. He is on tour in the UK throughout June. Dates HERE. Catch this legend if you can.