Allan Holdsworth Trio: Gatineau, Canada
and guitarist Robin Trower, but he's been demonstrating no shortage of pure jazz cred on his own albums, including the marvelous but overlooked Hotwired (Abstract Logix, 2009), with his post-Miles Davisian group, Drive. With Holdsworth it's often far more aggressive, but the same demands exist as in any improvising unit. Like Johnson, his ears are wide open, more often less obvious than in a humorous ending to "Material Real." As the musicians were allowing the music to fade to black, Holdsworthin an uncharacteristically impish moodlet loose a brief phrase with a mischievous smile on his face; Husband, also grinning grinning, responded and brought the medley to a more definitive close. More impressive, and far subtler, was Husband's ability to find small rhythmic motifs during some of the evening's more atmospheric passages, occasionally grounding the ethereality but not sounding out of context.
As for Husband? He's well-known in fusion and rock circles, touring these days with Cream legend , bassist Jack Bruce
But the real feature for Husband came in his extended solo near the end of "Letters of Marque," also from I.O.U.. In a stunning display of sheer technique and undeniable musicality, Husband constructed a solo filled with invention, as he mined rhythmic and melodic motifs for all they were worth, each one leading to another and establishing a dynamic ebb and flow that built to a climactic peak accompanied by the audience's screaming and whistling. It was but one of many such moments throughout the set, which ended all too soon, the group returning briefly for the hardest rocking tune of the night, "Red Alert," with Holdsworth pumping out dense power chords in an arrangement far harder-edged than the version on Blues for Tony.
With a nearly full house in an intimate and fine-sounding concert theater with a capacity for about 300 people, what was most obvious about this trio, musicianship aside, was the fun they were having. Before the show, Johnson reflected on the rigors of a road trip, with nobody to load their gear or drive the vanbut that it was all worth it, to play with Holdsworth and Husband. Tiring, perhaps, but when they hit the stage the long trips and late nights disappeared, and the trio played as if their lives depended on it. There were lots of smiles going around, and while the trio with Wackerman is a fine one, there was a greater sense of relaxation with the present assembly, on and off the stage. Not necessarily better, just different, but clearly a trio that enjoys each other's company both musically and personally. Husband remarked, before the show, that sometimes when he's most tired he plays his best: if that's so, then he must have been very tired...as must be the case with Holdsworth and Johnson, as the trio delivered a performance that will be remembered by the Gatineau audience for a long time to come.