Allan Holdsworth's Sixteen Men of Tain is mellow, measured, and melancholy. This is that quiet woodlands walk at dusk or being alone at dawn in the mists of a forgotten moor, type of jazz wonderland. Holdsworth has stayed with his comfortable, even-handed "flow" and gently restrained ways as on None Too Soon and Secrets. His Synthaxe work appears again in several compositions with that Sand feel. The jazz rock, fired-up, effusive fusion is kept at bay but Holdsworth's incredible legato, tornado riffage and chordal dreamscapes are still in pleasing abundance. Holdsworth has nothing to prove, no need to strain at the bit. The power and glory are an evident undercurrent throughout. That sax-horn voicing is near perfect in many places and Holdsworth is introspectively smooth and mirror-shine pristine in tone everywhere he needs to be. He has set forth another very comfortable listen and reached a new milestone in his enduring legacy of matchless grace.
And having said that, the specifics include very fine trumpet by Walt Fowler guesting on tracks 1 and 5, with Chad Wackerman guest drumming on track 6. Holdsworth is expertly accompanied on acoustic bass by Dave Carpenter and Gary Novak on drums. Allan Holdsworth plays confidently relaxed and flowingly inspired guitar and Synthaxe, as usual.
As stated above, you will not find Holdsworth wildly rockin' out, doing bizarre explosions of guitar nor Synthaxe, (though he is more than capable), on this release. Production and sound is slick and polished throughout. Compositions will find the listener being massaged into bliss or swept along in a swift flow. A jazz guitar reviewer associate, upon hearing this release, just said something like, "Wow!" I wasn't surprised at all. I have been listening to Allan Holdsworth since his decages-ago, work with Soft Machine and Tony Williams' Lifetime. Holdsworth only keeps getting better with time. All but one of the eight songs herein are by Holdsworth. He and Novak co-wrote "The Drums Were Yellow," a tribute in memory of Tony Williams. Chad Wackerman wrote "Downside Up."
For jazz guitar excellence and Synthaxe/guitar synth mastery none can match Holdsworth in voicings, phrasings, various techniques nor song composition. He is unique in a world of guitar all his own. He has created his own niche. His signature style will echo through many generations. Highest recommendations and deepest of respect for this exceptional artist.
1. O274 2. The Sixteen Men of Tain 3. Above and Below 4. The Drums Were Yellow 5. Texas 6. Downside Up 7. Eidolon 8. Above and Below (reprise)
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