Alan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua featuring Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua
Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua featuring Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip
Altitude Digital

2007 is the year that guitarist Allan Holdsworth makes a return to the public eye. With planned reissues of his long out-of-print discography and more extensive touring than he's done in years, this groundbreaking guitarist—long considered an icon by fusion fans and a guitarist's guitarist by other equally legendary six-stringers, including Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin—may finally be poised for the greater recognition he's always deserved.

In the fall of 2006, Holdsworth reunited with keyboardist Alan Pasqua, with whom he first worked in the late drummer Tony Williams' mid-'70s New Lifetime band. While that group released only two records, the first—Believe It (Sony, 1975)—is considered a fusion classic and features two especially enduring tracks, Holdsworth's "Fred and Pasqua's "Protocosmos. Both are included on Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua featuring Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip, filmed at Oakland's Yoshi's club at the end of September 2006. Given Holdsworth's long relationship with drummer Wackerman, bassist Haslip is the only new face here, though as co-founder of the popular contemporary jazz group Yellowjackets, he's by no means an unknown entity.

The DVD captures 85 minutes of material old and new. Holdsworth has sometimes been his own worst enemy, so self-critical that albums like Soft Works' Abracadabra (Tone Center, 2003), his collaboration with other alumni from '70s British jazz/rock group Soft Machine, ended up being far less than it could have been. The playing was never less than stellar, but equally it often felt a little sterile.

There's no danger of stasis here. Without the benefit of fixing and remixing, Holdsworth fans get to hear him warts and all—not that there are many to be found. His remarkable legato style, almost entirely eliminating the attack of his guitar, is in full force, but with his signature vibrato and tasteful use of whammy bar, this is the most energetic he's sounded in years. There's more attitude and less self-absorption, and it's a welcome change. Holdsworth's other concert DVD, Live at the Galaxy Theatre (Gnarly Geezer, 2002), suffered from a similar self-absorption as Abracadabra, whereas here, while he rarely cracks a smile, it's clear he's enjoying himself.

And how could he not? Wackerman, with the exception of Gary Husband, has long been Holdsworth's drummer of choice. Here, with a group that's in some respects paying tribute to the New Tony Williams Lifetime, Wackerman demonstrates the same paradoxical mix of power and finesse that made Williams such a potent and diverse musical force. He cops Williams' drum intro to "Fred, but after that one reference he's playing on his own turf. Capable of strong, propulsive grooves while responding to everything going on around him, he's busy at times but never superfluous or excessive. In fact, that's a defining characteristic of the entire show. There's plenty of high velocity playing going on, but it's all meaningful and purposeful, never the kind of aimless wanking that often gives fusion a bad name.

Haslip, like Wackerman, seems to know just how to balance energetic playing with sustained groove. Before Haslip became a known entity he was a progressive rock and fusion fan, so playing with Holdsworth may well be something of a dream come true. But at this point in his career he's absolutely an equal. His solo on the opening "The Fifth has the punch of Stanley Clarke but none of the self-aggrandizing ego that has shadowed Clarke for far too long. As it is for everyone else on the stage, the music is the thing, and while Holdsworth has worked primarily with Jimmy Johnson over the years, there's an undeniable chemistry with Haslip here that deserves further exploration.

Pasqua has, in recent years, been working in a more acoustic space. He's a member of drummer Peter Erskine's trio, and has released his own elegant piano trio disc, My New Old Friend (Cryptogramophone, 2005). Here, however, it's clear he's lost none of his fusion chops, or his ear for texture. While the majority of the time he's heard using either a Hammond-like organ tone or Fender Rhodes-like electric piano sound, he kicks in some serious distortion on a couple of tracks, including the funky closer, "Red Alert, and demonstrates he's as capable of near-relentless intensity as the rest of the group.

It's not all unrelenting, however. Holdsworth's intro to "Pud Wud is atmospheric, again demonstrating his unique voicings and a unique lyricism. Once the band is in the pool, it's a return to greater energy but also a change of pace. "San Michele features a beautiful piano intro from Pasqua that leads into an arpeggio-driven group piece that's reminiscent of early Mahavishnu Orchestra but, with Holdsworth's legato lines, a cleaner and less audacious version.


More Articles

Read I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017 DVD/Film Reviews I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 4, 2017
Read I Called Him Morgan by Kasper Collin DVD/Film Reviews I Called Him Morgan by Kasper Collin
by Christine Connallon
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Bill Frisell: A Portrait DVD/Film Reviews Bill Frisell: A Portrait
by John Kelman
Published: March 14, 2017
Read Man of the World: The Peter Green Story DVD/Film Reviews Man of the World: The Peter Green Story
by Jim Trageser
Published: February 11, 2017
Read "Grateful Dead Meet Up at the Movies 5-11-2016" DVD/Film Reviews Grateful Dead Meet Up at the Movies 5-11-2016
by Doug Collette
Published: May 14, 2016
Read "Miles Ahead: A Powerhouse Film, But is it the Truth?" DVD/Film Reviews Miles Ahead: A Powerhouse Film, But is it the Truth?
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: April 25, 2016
Read "Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped" DVD/Film Reviews Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped
by Doug Collette
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "U2: Innocence + Experience: Live in Paris" DVD/Film Reviews U2: Innocence + Experience: Live in Paris
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Eberhard Weber: The Jubilee Concert" DVD/Film Reviews Eberhard Weber: The Jubilee Concert
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 4, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!