Allan Holdsworth
(Copyright © 1999-2017 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Velvet Darkness (1976), 4.5/10
I.O.U. (1982), 6.5/10
Road Games (1983), 5/10
Metal Fatigue (1985), 6.5/10
Atavachron (1986), 6/10
Sand (1987), 6.5/10
Secrets (1989), 7/10
Wardenclyffe Tower (1992), 6/10
Just For The Curious-Instructional (1993), 5/10
Hard Hat Area (1993), 6/10
None Too Soon (1996), 6/10
The Sixteen Men Of Tain (1999), 6/10
Flat Tire-Music For A Non-Existent Movie (2001), 5/10

(Translation by Ken Restivo and piero scaruffi)

Allan Holdworth, one of the great British guitar virtuosos, has followed an oblique path in which he has collaborated with the giants of the Canturbury school, with the monsters of Heavy Metal, and with the visionaries of jazz-rock. Trained as a clarinet and saxophone player, he pioneered the application of those techniques to stringed instruments. His unique, fluid, free-form style often employed unorthodox scales and let notes fall like like cloudbursts.

His career began with the band Igginbottom, with whom he released Wrench (1969), and with Sunship, the band of Alan Gowen, before joining Nucleus, Soft Machine and U.K. In 1975 he joined Tony Williams' Lifetime, and shocked the jazz world with his incendiary guitar work on Believe It (1975). His first solo albums, Velvet Darkness(CTI,1976), with Good Clean Filth, and I.O.U. (Crack Moon, 1982), with Letters of Marque and The Things You See, were mere showcases for his technique.

His evolution peaked with a series of spectacular albums for small ensemble that ideally followed up in the vein of Jeff Beck's tour de forces, Holdsworth's fusion style matured on Metal Fatigue (Enigma, 1983), an album dominated by the lengthy The Un-Merry-Go-Round but that also includes Devil Take The Hindmost (opened by one of his best solos) and Metal Fatigue, although ruined by the vocal parts.

Allan Holdsworth, uno dei grandi virtuosi britannici della chitarra, ha seguito un percorso obliquo che lo ha portato a collaborare sia con i giganti della scuola di Canterbury sia con i vanesi dell'heavy metal sia con i sognatori del jazz-rock. Educato a suonare sassofoni e clarinetti, provo` ad applicare le stesse tecniche allo strumento a corda. Non fu pero` la sperimentazione a farne un protagonista, ma lo stile fluido dei suoi assoli free-form, nonostante si serva spesso di scale astruse e le note sembrino piovere a catinelle.

Inizio` la carriera negli Igginbottom, che registrarono Wrench (1969), e nei Sunship con il tastierista Alan Gowen, e poi milito` nei NucleusSoft Machine e negli UK. Nel 1975 si uni` ai Lifetime di Tony Williams, e terrorizzo` il mondo del jazz con i suoi assoli incendiari su Believe It (1975).

I suoi primi album solisti, Velvet Darkness (CTI, 1976), con Good Clean Filth, e I.O.U. (Luna Crack, 1982), con Letters of Marque e The Things You See, erano semplici vetrine della sua tecnica.

La sua evoluzione culmino` in una serie di spettacolari dischi per piccolo ensemble che proseguono i tour de force solisti di Jeff Beck. La fusion di Holdsworth giunse a maturazione su Metal Fatigue (Enigma, 1983), disco dominato dalla lunga The Un-Merry-Go-Round ma comprendente anche Devil Take The Hindmost (che inizia con uno dei suoi migliori assoli) e Metal Fatigue, seppur rovinato dalle parti vocali.

The mini-album Road Games (Warner, 1983) marked a return to a stronger sound, but the material was generally weak and erratic, except for Tokyo Dreams, despite the stellar lineup of Chad Wackerman on drums, Jeff Berlin on Bass and Jack Bruce on vocals.

Atavachron (Enigma, 1986) brought mixed news. The good news is that all tracks except one are instrumental (his vocal tracks are a real curse). The real good news is that his orchestrations often duel with Frank Zappa's in terms of eccentricity and randomness. The bad news is that Holdsworth embraced an electronic guitar-like instrument called "synthaxe", which allowed him to produce symphonic sounds but also overloaded the arrangements (Non Brewed Condiment, Dominant Plague). It is not a coincidence that simpler pieces such as Funnels and Looking Glass sound more vital.

That format was improved on the six pieces of Sand (Relativity, 1987), notably Pud Wud, and reached a baroque sort of peak on Secrets (Intima, 1989), whose subtle and sophisticated compositions (especially City Nights) are soothing the way "soft jazz" used to be, but without ever sounding moronic. Vincent Colaiuta played drums.

The live album Then (2003) contains Proto-Cosmos, recorded in 1990.

The guitarist mostly abandoned the synthaxed and returned to a rocking sound with Wardenclyffe Tower (Restless, 1992) that includes a celebrated solo in Zarabeth and the ferocious 5 to 10. Subsequent albums Hard Hat Area (Polydor, 1993), with the lengthy Low Levels High Stakes, the hypersonic fusion of Ruhkukah, and House of Mirrors, None Too Soon (Polydor, 1996), with the title-track and Gordon Beck on piano, Heavy Machinery (Heptagon, 1996), a trio with Anders Johansson and Jens Johansson, The Sixteen Men Of Tain (Polydor, 1999), with the melodic Above And Below and the longer 0274, and Flat Tire-Music For A Non-Existent Movie (Megazoidal, 2001), continued to display his skills and a unique passion for genre deconstruction.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gianluca Mantovan)

Il mini-album Road Games (Warner, 1983) segna il ritorno a un sound piu' forte ma il materiale era debole ed irregolare. Atavachron (Enigma, 1986) porto' varie news. Quella buona e' che tutti i pezzi eccetto uno sono strumentali (quelli vocali sono una sciagura). Le orchestrazioni sono spesso all'altezza di quelle di Frank Zappa per eccentricita' e irregolarita'. Quella cattiva e' che la "synthaxe", strumento elettronico simile alla chitarra, permette a Holdsworth di produrre suoni sinfonici ma sovraccarica gli arrangiamenti (Non Brewed Condiment). Non e' un caso che pezzi semplici come Funnels e Looking Glass suonino piu' vitali. Il formato fu perfezionato per i sei pezzi di Sand (Relativity, 1987) e raggiunse l'apice barocco su Secrets (Intima, 1989), le cui composizioni sottili e sofisticate (City Nights) sono altrettanto calme del "soft jazz" senza essere deboli. Il chtarrista abbandono' quasi del tutto la "synthaxe" e torno' ad un suono piu' rock con Wardenclyffe Tower (Restless, 1992). Gli album successivi, Hard Hat Area (Polydor, 1993), con la lunga Low Levels High Stakes, la fusion supersonica di Ruhkukah e House of Mirrors, None Too Soon (Polydor, 1996), con la title-track e Gordon Beck al piano, Heavy Machinery (Heptagon, 1996), un trio con Anders Johansson e Jens Johansson, The Sixteen Men Of Tain (Polydor, 1999), con Above And Below e Flat Tire-Music For A Non-Existent Movie (Megazoidal, 2001), continuarono a mostrare bravura e la visione peculiare della decomposizione di genere.

All Night Wrong (Favored Nations, 2003) was Holdsworth's first live album.

Against the Clock (Alternity, 2005) is a career retrospective.

Blues For Tony (2009) is a live double-disc album.

Propensity (Art of Life, 2011) contains previously unreleased recordings by Holdsworth from september 1978 with bassist Danny Thompson (ex Pentangle and John Martyn) and drummer John Stevens (ex Spontaneous Music Ensemble and Derek Bailey), notably Jools Toon (10:39) and It Could Have Been Mono (15:48).

Holdsworth died in 2017 at the age of 70.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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