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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

22: Chad Wackerman

(Photo: Jack Gold)
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     The '90s found Allan Holdsworth with less releases under his own name. However he was still keeping busy collaborating with others, either as sideman, session man, pinch-hitter or producer.
     "I always like to play on albums, because then you can go in and try and make whatever you do work in that environment." (Facelift 12, 1994)
     Chad Wackerman first collaborated with Allan on the Road Games album. Prior to meeting Allan, Chad had made a name for himself playing in Frank Zappa's virtuosic ensemble. His relationship with Holdsworth continued throughout the following four decades, both live and in the studio. Although Chad rarely got paid any money for his studio work, Allan showed his appreciation by appearing on no less than three of Chad's solo albums. Although some friction surfaced at times (usually due to disagreements on guitar mixes), Allan often included one of Chad's songs in his own live sets throughout the years. In the breakdowns below, I only cover the tracks on which Allan participated. Altogether there are 11 song compositions and 14 improv "Zones" spread out over 3 albums.

Chad Wackerman
Forty Reasons

Chad Wackerman: drums, production
Allan Holdsworth: guitar
Jim Cox: keys, piano, organ
Jimmy Johnson: bass

Recorded June 1991
Produced by Kurt Renker, Walter Quintus, Chad Wackerman

     This album is about half compositions and half improv sequences. Some of these songs sound like they were specifically written with Allan's guitar style in mind.
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
1 Holiday Insane 7:18 (Chad Wackerman)

This song features "head" figures from both organ and guitar.

0:00: Drum fill into modulating chordal groove, joined by head in keys (developed).
1:01: Guitar lead over modulating pedal accents and rhythmic keyboard accents.
1:25: Chordal groove, keys head (reprise).
2:02: Drum cadenza over chordal groove, organ solo, cadence.
3:28: Guitar solo (sometimes harmonized with delays) over chordal groove, cadence.
6:01: Guitar lead over modulating pedal accents (reprise).
6:28: Drum solo over chordal groove.
2 You Came Along 4:08 (Chad Wackerman)

This song is kind of like a cousin to "Water On the Brain".

0:00: Opening textural accent, syncopated head groove with guitar in top line, heavy guitar cadence.
0:45: Keys cadenza over syncopated groove, cadence.
1:09: Opening accent, guitar solo over syncopated groove, heavy cadence.
3:18: Opening accent, syncopated groove with guitar in top line, heavy guitar cadence.
3 Forty Reasons 7:44 (Chad Wackerman/Carl Verheyen)

Allan solos over a 5/4 vamp, somewhat hearkening back to his Soft Machine days.

0:00: Sinister, lurching 5/4 drum/bass groove, joined by soft synth accents.
0:50: Keys add lead line.
1:55: Accented cadence, main groove resumes with keys in top line.
3:24: Guitar solo (over 5/4 groove).
5:04: Keys lead line resumes (alt patch), accented cadence, stereo effects.
5:53: Synth solo over new 4/4 syncopated groove.
4 Fearless 1:30 (Quartet Improv)

This is a good example of what Allan would label a "Zone" on his live albums.

Textural harmonies/pulses are driven by lively (but rhythmic) drums, as a clean guitar lead surfaces over a modulating pedal.
5 Quiet Life 5:55 (Chad Wackerman)

This tune highlights fretless bass from Jimmy Johnson.

0:00: Clean chord melody vamp on guitar, joined by fretless bass lead, drums.
1:03: Pedal bass drone, leads to lead guitar line.
1:54: Opening vamp and fretless bass.
2:24: Guitar solo over harmony from second section.
2:57: Chordal swells over looser groove, joined by fretless bass solo.
4:30: Lead guitar line (reprise).
5:04: Opening vamp and fretless bass.
7 Tell Me 5:15 (Chad Wackerman)

This song was added to Allan's live sets in the early '90s. It's kind of a Kinks song with Debussy chords on top.

0:00: Drum fill into galloping "rock" motif with two Debussy-like accent chords, rising motif developed.
1:05: Vamp motif/chords reprise, rising motif.
1:45: Variation of main chordal motif, keys solo over main groove, rising motif.
3:20: Guitar solo (harmonized).
4:30: Vamp motif/chords reprise (drum fills).
8 House On Fire 1:13 (Qrtt Improv)

A more electric "Zone".

Lurching figures, tentative lead guitar develops into a solo (partially harmonized) over an up-tempo groove.
9 Hidden Places 4:00 (Chad Wackerman)

Allan plays a wonderfully lyrical solo here.

0:00: Glassy arpeggio theme, joined by growing drums.
1:03: Reprise.
2:04: Guitar solo over slow, syncopated vamp based on arpeggio harmonies.
10 Go 1:39 (Duo Improv)

     This improv is similar to the kinds of live duets employed in "Devil Take the Hindmost" and "Was There?" (from Road Games).

Guitar and drums duo using dense stick-work and harmonized guitar leads.
11 Schemes 3:17 (Qrtt Improv)

Another "Zone", this time with more atmospheric elements.

0:00: Distant, abstract textures, piano accents.
1:35: Lead guitar surfaces over rumbling textures.
2:39: Abstract textures resume.

Chad Wackerman
The View

Chad Wackerman: drums
Allan Holdsworth: guitar
Jim Cox: synthesizers, piano, organ, clavinet
Walt Fowler: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jimmy Johnson: bass
(Carl Verheyen: guitar, but not on the tracks below)

Recorded June 1993
Produced by Kurt Renker, Walter Quintus, Chad Wackerman

     Allan first recorded with trumpet/flugelhorn player Walt Fowler on this date. Later Fowler would guest on Allan's "The Sixteen Men of Tain". Although the playing is great here, none of these songs were incorporated into Allan's live concerts. At one point Allan had an opportunity to play with Miles Davis, but it wasn't to be. However, "Empty Suitcase" may give some indication of how it could have sounded.
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown

All songs, except 9:
Chad Wackerman: Drums
Jimmy Johnson: Bass
1 Close To Home 5:25 (Chad Wackerman)
AH: Guitar
JC: Organ, synth

Allan plays a beautiful solo over some changing moods.

0:00: Cheerful theme A in keys/guitar.
0:28: Bridge with guitar lead, cadence lick.
1:01: Theme A.
1:28: Guitar solo over bridge harmony, bridge developed, theme A melody/harmony (some signal processing at end).
2:49: 2nd solo chorus (more signal processing).
4:12: Theme A.
4 Empty Suitcase 2:50 (Quintet Improv)

This (eventually) funky jam features some nice trumpet leads. The mix is kind of a "Bitches Brew"/dub vibe.

0:00: Low textures/rolls (delays).
0:27: Uptempo funk groove with piano accents, trumpet improv, guitar swells/comping.
5 Introduction 6:35 (Chad Wackerman)
AH: Guitar
JC: Organ, synth, clavinet, piano

This funky tune hinges on Jimmy's witty, aggressive bass. The ending has a nice open feeling.

0:00: Funky groove over 2-chord vamp (featuring bass ornaments).
0:32: Bass solo over modulated vamp.
1:00: Main groove resumes.
1:31: Clavinet solo over pedal vamp (soft chordal comping).
2:49: Bass lead developed from theme.
3:18: Guitar solo over pedal vamp (sometimes harmonized).
4:25: High register bass theme over relaxed/open groove, developed with a synth lead, drums drop out.
8 On The Edge 2:50 (Qrtt Improv)
AH: Guitar
JC: Organ, piano

An improv Zone with an uptempo groove for the guitar solo.

0:00: Textural improv spotlighting clean tones and piano ornaments. A groove eventually develops.
1:49: Guitar solo over a lively groove, ending in soft textures.
9 Just A Moment 1:12 (Duo Improv)
AH: Guitar
WF: Flugelhorn

Some beautiful soundscape & brass textures here - this should have been much longer...

Soft guitar swells and flugelhorn duet in a sentimental mood.  
13 Days Away 3:07 (Quintet Improv)
AH: Guitar
WF: Trumpet
JC: Piano

This Zone features a typical structure, but the guitar solo is great as usual.

0:00: Textural swells and processed trumpet/bass/drums, etc. Piano enters with flourishes.
1:01: Relaxed groove begins on drums with bass pedal drone.
1:50: Guitar lead begins. 

Chad Wackerman
Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations

Chad Wackerman: drums
Allan Holdsworth: guitar
Jim Cox: keys, organ
Jimmy Johnson: bass

Recorded 2004-2012
Produced by Chad Wackerman

     This album was recorded over a period of 8 years (as related by Allan in a 2012 interview). Allan plays on three of Chad's compositions, while six are "Zone"-type improvisations. This is the first record on which Allan recorded with the Starr Z-Board synth controller. It's also the last album in Allan's discography which has him playing on more than a single song or two.
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown

All songs:
Jimmy Johnson: Bass
Chad Wackerman: Drums
2 A New Day 6:59 (Chad Wackerman)
AH: SynthAxe, Starr Z-Board, guitar

This tune is similar to "Tell Me" in some ways. It features a SynthAxe solo. The Starr Z-Board is a synth-controller which can be played somewhat like a lap-steel or Chapman stick.

0:00: Drum fill leads to pedal "rock" vamp and soft accent chords.
1:27: Bridge: accents lead to modulations.
2:01: Main vamp resumes.
2:44: SynthAxe "brass" solo over looser groove with modulations.
5:24: Clean guitar chords lead back to main vamp harmony (with added bass ornaments).
6:23: Bridge accents.
3 Bent Bayou 4:00 (Trio Improv)
AH: Guitar

This Zone is driven by the changing bass groove.

0:00: Lively groove driven by a jovial, chordal bass motif, joined by soft guitar arpeggios/comping.
1:03: Guitar lead begins (clean tone).
2:10: Guitar changes to lead tone (groove opens up, bass employs staccato ornamentation). Return to clean guitar for ending cadence.
4 Star Gazing 2:41 (Trio Improv)
AH: SynthAxe

This is the only Zone which spotlights the SynthAxe.

0:00: Mid-tempo pedal groove with glassy chordal SynthAxe accents, bass ornaments. SynthAxe chords become more brassy in the middle section, then return to glassy accents.
5 Edith Street 3:38 (Trio Improv)
AH: Guitar

In this Zone Jimmy's bass takes a more soloistic role than usual.

0:00: Tom rolls lead to soft swells (sometimes accented) and bass pulses. Lead guitar tone enters. Bass dialogues with guitar as drums play freely (but rhythmically).
2:36: Soft guitar textures resume over textural cymbals.
6 The Fifth 6:38 (Chad Wackerman)
AH: SynthAxe, guitar

Lively drums underpin a kind of pastoral chord melody accompaniment.

0:00: Drum fill into a pedal bass harmony with pastoral chordal guitar.
1:02: Bridge: modulating with guitar arpeggios.
1:32: Pedal/pastoral groove theme resumes.
2:25: Bass solo as guitar comps with soft modulating chords (sometimes flanged).
3:30: Guitar solo over modulating bridge harmony.
4:37: Accented cadence, main pedal/pastoral harmony resumes with additional textural elements, developed.
8 The Billows 5:49 (Chad Wackerman)
AH: Starr Z-Board, guitar

The Starr Z-Board is a synth-controller which can be played somewhat like a lap-steel or Chapman stick.

0:00: Theme A with guitar in top line over accented groove.
0:40: B theme, cadence.
1:31: Theme A, B, cadence.
2:46: Starr Z-Board "reed/winds" solo over theme grooves (developed).
4:31: Percussion interlude with soft accent chords.
4:55: Main themes reprise, end cadence.
9 Monsieur Vintage 3:38 (Trio Improv)
AH: Guitar

This Zone starts out with very Holdsworthian chordal textures and leads to a solo over a strong modal feeling. This 'structure' was sometimes played live to open a medley featuring "Above and Below", "The Things You See" and "Material Real". The tune "Madame Vintage" from the 2003 Soft Works album "Abracadabra" uses the same chord melody opening theme.

0:00: Soft chordal guitar with cymbals/bass ornaments/pedal.
0:53: Lead guitar tone enters as bass pedal modulates and drums develop.
3:05: Opening chordal textures resume.
12 A Spontaneous Story 3:56 (Trio Improv)
AH: Guitar

This Zone features some nice chordal ideas, which sound like they could be developed into a song.

0:00: Clean guitar chord melody alternates with swelled chords.
0:41: Clean guitar lead over textural bass and drums, becoming sometimes chordal/rhythmic.
1:50: Lead guitar tone solo over lively pedal bass (riff).
3:28: Clean chordal guitar resurfaces for ending cadence.
14 Invisible 1:35 (Trio Improv)
AH: Guitar

This is a nice atmospheric, ascending postlude to the album. 

0:00: Swelled textures/cymbals/bells/etc. - rising harmonies.

Next: Frank Gambale, Johansson Brothers & Others
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