Leonardo Pavkovic’s Moonjune is praiseworthy for a lot of different things but – from this perspective – especially for rejuvenating Allan Holdsworth’s career. I have declared it in the past and I’ll do it again: Holdsworth is considered a supreme being in this writer’s household. Firstly, as a human: he’s one of the nicest persons ever met, and I consider myself super fortunate for having had repeated chances of exchanging opinions with him before and after fifteen concerts or so. And, naturally, as a guitarist and composer, too often superficially categorized by a “fusion” label. Maybe the only fusion implied is related to many a wannabe’s brain attempting to understand what he does on the fretboard, getting their tendons strained in the meantime. In reality, Holdsworth is “just” a rare specimen of unselfish visionary… and in his (and our) mind probably still a kid, looking for the same kind of emotional messages that we used to get when we were playing records and learning an instrument step by step as youngsters. The program of issuing remastered editions of AH’s major albums, commenced by Moonjune with these two releases, will be followed regularly on Touching Extremes, the ultimate homage to a personal hero. However, it’s been eleven years that we’re expecting a new signal… But – knowing the persons involved – something tells me that the thirst could be quenched soonish. Hopefully.
ALLAN HOLDSWORTH – Hard Hat Area
This belongs to the very few Holdsworth’s darlings, which is saying a lot in consideration of the recurrent discontentment that he manifests when considering his past work. The playing unit – which includes bassist Skuli Sverrisson, keyboardist Steve Hunt and drummer Gary Husband – is very compact and extra-rehearsed, the result of having performed many of these tracks live in numerous occasions before entering the studio. This record contains one of my favourite pieces ever by the guitarist: “Tullio”, dedicated to Tullio Campagnolo (another visionary, but in the bicycling field – Holdsworth has always been a fervid pedaller, not only in a guitar-related sense). Other notable tunes include the explosive “Ruhkukah” (a friend’s term indicating the sexual act… so much for the “tranquil English gentleman” imagery) and the slower beauties “House Of Mirrors” and “Low Levels, High Stakes”. The title track is remembered for a brief edgy segment in which a sampled pizzicato violin (…cello?) inevitably makes me think to Sylvester the cat sneakily tiptoeing behind a wall in order to arrive at Tweety. “Prelude” and “Postlude” begin and close the disc with the sort of improvisational spurts we’ve (gladly) heard many times during Holdsworth’s concerts. The solos are… well, as ever with the man, they are stellar. Enough to get a copy of this fabulously sounding reissue, whose dynamical content literally zaps out of the speakers.
ALLAN HOLDSWORTH – None Too Soon
“It’s all Gordon Beck’s fault, God rest his soul”. Indeed. The late pianist, who encouraged the leader to undertake this project to increase his visibility among jazzbos, is one of the four members of the band playing in None Too Soon, perhaps the closest to “jazz” (or at least “jazz-rock”) to which Allan Holdsworth has come during his solo career. Bassist Gary Willis and drummer Kirk Covington are the other components of a charmingly bull-necked album, one that was not among my true favourites when it came out but now, after the remastering, is standing as a pretty essential statement, especially by virtue of its total lack of commonplace. John Coltrane’s “Countdown”, Bill Evans’ “Very Early” and Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean” are gorgeous in their assortment of light-hearted quality and technically innovative regard for the original versions. The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” is a brilliant choice, the tune terrifically appropriate in the recording’s general temperament. Beck – with whom Holdsworth had recorded the glorious The Things You See in 1979 – contributes with the 2-part title track and “San Marcos”. Everything sounds tightly organized and instrumentally luminous, the atmospheres ranging between refined concentration and utterly smoking blow-out. Besides the obviousness of high-level soloism, Holdsworth’s work as chordal propeller in every song flies at unapproachable altitudes.