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Saturday, July 15, 2017

13: Holdsworth...and Company.

The Abingdon Chasp
     After leaving U.K. (but before the original Bruford band had fully gotten back up to speed to record a new album), Allan had an opportunity to record a demo track for Virgin Records called "The Abingdon Chasp". In this session he was joined by Bill Bruford, keyboardist Jeff Young (later Steely Dan, Sting, etc), French bassist Francis Moze (Gong), and alto saxophonist Ray Warleigh (a long-time jazz partner who had "discovered" Allan back in Bradford). The Calyx-Canterbury Holdsworth chronology lists this demo's recording date as late 1978, but it only recently surfaced officially on 2016's Tales From the Vault Pledge release. When Virgin decided to pass on the track, Bruford suggested to Allan that they rerecord it for the upcoming Bruford album, One Of A Kind.
     "Usually I have an idea for the title of a piece first, before composing the music. "The Abingdon Chasp" was an exception to this approach. The piece had been sitting around for a long time without a title. In my travels seeking out fine ales, friends and I would frequently drive many miles to Oxfordshire to a Morland house. That is a pub which exclusively serves ale from the Morland brewery, which is located in the small town of Abingdon. Morland was one of the best ales available in that part of the country. The Morland trademark is a little fellow holding an artist's paintbrush in one hand. In the other hand he holds a glass of Morland ale, which he is studying carefully. Often in England, guys are called chaps, and after they've had a few pints, "chaps" might be pronounced "chasp." Hence, the Morland brewery trademark came to be known as "The Abingdon Chasp." I named the tune after that fictional character who lives on the walls and signs of Morland houses - it was written at a time when friends and I would drive a long way to taste the Abingdon Chasp's brew."  (16)
     When asked about this demo in a May 1979 Oor Magazine interview, Bill Bruford answered:
     "He recorded a demo for Virgin, but they didn't follow through. The music was too 'eccentric' for their tastes. He's a fabulous improviser. He's going to try something else. But even if he records a solo record, he'll remain in the (Bruford) group."
The Abingdon Chasp: Musical Analysis:  
     This late '70s Vault cut is notable for being the only officially-released studio recording of a solo Holdsworth project between 1976's Velvet Darkness and 1980's I.O.U., and somewhat bridges each of those two eras. It's also the only recording of altoist Ray Warleigh with Allan (although a couple 1980 BBC3 broadcast performances also included Warleigh on the sessions). It's doubtful any other songs were recorded during this date, since this one song was already quite a handful for one session. The tune has many rhythmic variations and solo sections, a tendency Allan might have picked up from all of the highly-structured Bruford and U.K. songs he had been playing for the last couple of years. "The Abingdon Chasp" also employs double-tracked harmony guitar lines, a technique heard earlier on Allan's composition "Shadows Of" (from Gong's Gazeuse!) and also employed on several U.K./Bruford songs. The rerecorded version of this song for Bruford's One Of A Kind album is slightly simpler, compared to the demo, and rearranged without saxophone.

The Abingdon Chasp
Allan Holdsworth: Electric guitar
Bill Bruford: Drums
Jeff Young: Keyboards
Francis Moze: Electric bass
Ray Warleigh: Alto sax
Demo from
"Tales From
the Vault"
5:12 (Allan Holdsworth)

0:00: Descending accented fanfare A.
0:07: Melody line B in sax, modulating to fanfare variation A', then brief guitar solo over anthemic groove fragment B'.
0:34: Reprise of sax melody B (added bass ornaments), fanfare var. A', harmonized guitar figure over broad C groove, fanfare A (tweaked).
1:12: Ray's alto sax solo over syncopated groove figure D, modulating and broadening into C' groove variant, reprise D, C' and then dissipating in held E cadence.
2:37: Allan's guitar solo over C' groove, syncopated groove D, back to C' groove.
3:16: Sax solo returns in E cadence.
3:33: Anthemic groove B' (full statement) with sax solo continued.
3:57: Reprise of sax head melody B, fanfare var. A', harmonized guitar figure over broad C' groove (added low guitar accent figures), fanfare A'' ending variation (with final synth filtering).

     Structurally, this composition is strikingly thorny (closer to Bartok than Black Sabbath, really). The breakdown below presents the structure. As in the above table, capital letters stand for sections, not chords (I probably could have made the ornamented B and C sections into three more variants (B'', B''' and C''), but you get the idea...).
  • Intro:      A
  • Verse 1:    B   A'  B'(fragment)
  • Verse 2:    B   A'  C  A
  • Solo 1(s):  D   C'  D  C' E
  • Solo 2(g):  C'  D   C'
  • Solo 3(s):  E   B' 
  • Verse 3:    B   A'  C' A''
     Lead-wise, Allan didn't seem to find it necessary to apply much in the way of "outside" scales, since the unusual chord modulations already gave the solos lots of room for unpredictable harmonic twists and turns - Allan was clearly pushing himself as a composer in this particular song. A formal harmonic analysis would be pretty interesting, but beyond the scope of this blog...

Chateauvallon, 1973, with the Pat Smythe Group
(Photo: Christian Rose, for Jazz Magazine June 2017)

BBC Radio Jazz Concerts 1977-81
     Besides his "rock" sessions with Bill Bruford and U.K., Allan also participated in many adhoc jazz groupings, usually based around Pat Smythe (piano), John Stevens (drums) or Gordon Beck (piano). Once or twice a year, these groups would perform a live session for the BBC, and in these situations many "electric" songs found themselves arranged for a more acoustic arena.

     One concert, (probably August 14, 1977) featured Allan and Pat Smythe with bassist Ron Mathewson (John Stevens' Touching On) and drummer Martin Drew, performing an uptempo jazz version of Bill Bruford's composition "Forever Until Sunday" (which would soon be reworked as a rock ballad in U.K.'s live sets). This tune, like "The Abingdon Chasp", was eventually recorded in the studio for Bruford's One Of A Kind release. A second 1977 concert reportedly consisted of Allan, Gordon Beck and drummer John Stevens, and featured free improvisations (probably the same concert as featured on John Stevens' Conversation Piece, although that was a quartet which also included bassist Jeff Clyne).

     On a BBC2 broadcast from November 26, 1978, Allan performed a version of his composition "White Line" with Smythe, acoustic bassist Darryl Runswick and drummer Harold Fisher. "White Line" would later be recorded as a demo with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman on the "Sherwood Forest" sessions (see below), and eventually featured in its final form on I.O.U. as a vocal rock song. Besides "White Line", the set also included Kenny Wheeler's composition "Smatter" (from Wheeler's album Gnu High), Pat Smythe's "What Am I Doing With You", and Keith Jarrett's "Questar" (from the album My Song). A third concert with Smythe in 1980 (found in its entirety on YouTube) included the future I.O.U. songs "Letters of Marque" and "Out From Under" (a song co-written by 'Igginbottom guitarist Steve Robinson). Smythe's final addition to Allan's discography was a cut on the 2016 "Pledge" album, Tales From the Vault, which included Smythe's piece, "New Dawn" on SynthAxe and Starr Z guitar/board.

     A late 1979 Holdsworth-Beck session was accompanied by drummer John Marshall (Soft Machine), saxophonist Ray Warleigh ("Abingdon Chasp", above), and bassist John Aue (often misspelled as "O'Whey"). This "Jazz in Britain" program would see acoustic versions of "The Things You See", "Every Little Breeze" (a song dedicated to his newly-born daughter Louise), and "Sunday", a reworked version of the opening section to "Nevermore" (from U.K.). The Holdsworth-Beck collaboration would result in two albums recorded in the late '70s, to be explored in detail in the next chapter. The session most significant for the near decade, however, was one featuring drummer Gary Husband and bassist Paul Carmichael. This trio would soon add vocalist Paul Williams to record I.O.U.'s epochal debut album (Chapter 15).

Allan (with Hartley Thompson amps), Gary Husband (on drums, partially obscured by the cymbal)
and Jeff Clyne on bass (with Gordon Beck on keys, unseen).
(photo: Graham Hepworth)
     The table below lists the most well-known Holdsworth BBC program broadcasts, although the dates (and some titles) may not be totally accurate. As of yet, the BBC archives have not yet made an official release of these recordings, but some home recordings have surfaced on YouTube and SoundCloud.

BBC2 "Sounds of Jazz"
August 14, 1977, possibly broadcast November 14

Pat Smythe and Allan Holdsworth Quartet:
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Pat Smythe: Piano
Ron Mathewson: Bass
Martin Drew: Drums

  • Forever Until Sunday (Bill Bruford, later recorded for One Of A Kind)
  • Wayley Wayley ("The Water is Wide", Scottish trad.)
  • Drumbilical Cord (Martin Drew, drum solo)
  • Kibby Fowler (or possibly "Itty Fowler") (?)
BBC Maida Vale "Jazz In Britain"
November 15, 1977, broadcast December 26

John Stevens Quartet:
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Gordon Beck: Piano
Jeff Clyne: Bass
John Stevens: Drums

  • Conversation Piece 1 & 2 (Group improvisation)
     (These free improvisations were released on Conversation Piece)
BBC2 "Sounds of Jazz"
Broadcast November 26, 1978

Pat Smythe and Allan Holdsworth Quartet:
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Pat Smythe: Piano
Darryl Runswick: Bass
Harold Fisher: Drums

  • Questar (Keith Jarrett)
  • Smatter (Kenny Wheeler)
  • What Am I Doing With You? (Pat Smythe)
  • White Line (announced as Where Is One?) (Allan Holdsworth)
     "Smatter" can be found on YouTube. "White Line" would later be recorded with vocals for I.O.U.'s debut LP.
BBC3 "Jazz In Britain"
November 14, 1979 (broadcast January 8, 1980)

Holdsworth & Co.:
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Gordon Beck: Piano
Ray Warleigh: Alto/soprano Saxophone
John Aue: Bass
John Marshall: Drums

  • The Things You See (When You Haven't Got A Gun) 
  • Every Little Breeze (double-tracked guitar duet)
  • Sunday
     All songs by Allan Holdsworth. "The Things You See" would be rerecorded for a Beck project as well as for I.O.U.'s debut. "Sunday" is an expanded suite version of a melody from the opening of the U.K. song "Nevermore".
March 17, 1980

Ian Carr with Nucleus+:
Ian Carr (tp, flghn), Brian Smith (sax, fl), Tim Whitehead (sax, cl), Derek Wadsworth (tb), Guy Barker (tp, flghn), Geoff Castle (keys), Allan Holdsworth (g), Chucho Merchan (b), Chris Fletcher (pc) & Nic France (ds)

  • Conversation With The Blues 
  • Sidewalk
     Available on SoundCloud, Allan only really cuts loose on "Sidewalk" here.
May 25, 1980 (broadcast date)

Pat Smythe Quintet:
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Pat Smythe: Piano
Ray Warleigh: Alto saxophone, Flute
Chris Laurence: Bass
John Marshall: Drums

  • Letters of Marque (Allan Holdsworth)
  • Reflection  (Pat Smythe)
  • Out from Under (Holdsworth/Steve Robinson)
  • Steppes (Smythe)
     Each track here is available on YouTube. "Letters of Marque" and "Out From Under" was also recorded for I.O.U.'s debut album session in 1980.
BBC3 "Jazz In Britain"
October 20, 1981

Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Paul Carmichael: Bass
Gary Husband: Drums, piano

  • White Line
  • Shallow Sea (introduction)
  • Where Is One?
  • Prayer (Gary Husband, piano)
  • Drifting Into The Attack, Prayer (reprise)
  • Letters Of Marque
     All songs Allan Holdsworth, except "Prayer" by Gary Husband (more info here). Most of these songs had just been recorded in the prior year for the debut I.O.U. LP (released 1982). "Drifting Into The Attack" is a version of "Gattox" (Velvet Darkness), and would be later be renamed again as "Gas Lamp Blues" on All Night Wrong (2002).
December 2, 1981

Gordon Beck Quartet with Allan Holdsworth:
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Gordon Beck: Piano
Jeff Clyne: Bass
Gary Husband: Drums

  • Diminished Responsibility (Allan Holdsworth)
  • Sans Melodie Too (Gordon Beck)
  • For C.W. (Cedar Walton) (Beck)
     Available at SoundCloud. "Diminished Responsibility" was also recorded for the Beck/Holdsworth album The Things You See (1980), and "Sans Melodie Too" later surfaced (without Allan) on Beck's "The French Connection II" (1982).

     The above tracks are not officially available at this point, but I analyzed them anyways in the link above for archival purposes.

Sherwood Forest Demos
     At some point during 1979 (towards the end of the Bruford period), Allan did a studio session with old friends Jack Bruce (vocalist/bassist for Cream, Tony Williams Wildlife Sessions) and Jon Hiseman (drummer in Tempest). This optimistic reunion resulted in what is sometimes referred to as the "Sherwood Forest" demos. It was apparently sent anonymously to various record labels (testing the record labels' "ears", so to speak), but it failed to generate any significant interest. A tour was also planned to begin in April for the trio, but it never materialized.
     "I had a blow with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman, and we were toying with the idea of trying to get that team together, but it came unstuck because we all had different problems at the same time. We made a demo at a studio during a couple of evenings and turned out half an album. It was that experience, playing with those two guys, that made me realize that I wanted to do something different and, consequently, that what I was doing with Bill Bruford was not the way I should be going… l just wanted to break loose and play the music that I've been working on for a long time."  (16, 6)

     This historic 26-minute demo could certainly use an official release from master tapes (if they still exist), but fuzzy copies of the demo tracks can be heard on SoundCloud. Allan offered up two of his own compositions for this project, "White Line" and "Where Is One", both of which would soon see final versions with I.O.U.'s studio sessions. All four Sherwood tracks feature mature Holdsworth solos with extended harmony excursions and sublime tremolo-bar articulations. He is almost definitely playing one of his custom Dick Knight Strats, judging by his thick, horn-like solo tone here.

The "Sherwood Forest" Demos

Allan Holdsworth – guitar
Jack Bruce – bass, vocals
 Jon Hiseman – drums

Like "The Wildlife Sessions" these are not officially released in any way, but since they are at present readily available online - and are certainly of interest from an historical viewpoint - I'll go ahead and present a breakdown of the song structures below...
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
1 White Line  5:11 (Music: Allan Holdsworth, Lyrics: Pete Brown)
     "When I was working on a project with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman in England, I had written an instrumental which Jack had lyricist Pete Brown write some lyrics for. It's not about cocaine - "White Line" is basically a song about musicians getting taken advantage of by twerps in the music industry (i.e., record company guys, lawyers, music publishing companies, managers, etc.)." (16)
0:00: Soft, descending bridge harmony, arpeggio figure A.
0:18: 1st verse with accented cadence, arpeggio A.
0:39: 2nd verse, cadence.
0:57: Descending bridge harmony, developed, arpeggio A
1:27: 3rd verse, cadence,
1:46: Syncopated volume swell harmony B over pedal bass accents.
2:10: Uptempo groove variation of B with chordal figures.
2:34: Chorus over 2-chord vamp C, volume swell B with drum ornaments.
3:07: Guitar solo over uptempo groove variation of B.
3:33: Solo over syncopated accent B variation, returning back to uptempo groove.
4:18: Chorus over 2-chord vamp C, arpeggio A.
4:47: 4th verse, cadence.
2 Bird Alone  8:46 (Jack Bruce)

     This song features a long volume swell intro section (soon to be a Holdsworth signature texture), as well as a long (3 min.) outro solo from Allan - in dialogue with Bruce's final verse. 

0:00: Textural volume swells with melancholic ballad vocal.
1:04: Accented, syncopated groove in compound meter.
1:29: 1st verse over groove.
1:54: 2nd verse.
2:18: 3rd verse with added electric guitar swells and drum fills.
2:43: 4th verse groove with added ornamentation.
3:08: Slow groove with guitar arpeggios and broad vocals, cadence, repeat, build and develop with power chords, some funky variations.
5:46: Guitar solo surfaces and continues over reprise of accented, syncopated groove and 5th verse, etc. 
3 Where Is One  5:36 (Allan Holdsworth)

     Like White Line, this song is also meticulously-structured, and features some quick-changing guitar tones, as well as brief, punctuating modal vamps. This structure - also found in many jazz pieces (Coltrane, etc...) - would be another favored compositional technique of Allan's in the future. 

0:00: Syncopated 2-chord arpeggio figure, cadence A, heavy rising figure B, cadence A, pedal harmony with scooped chords, cadence A', pedal harmony with "outside" guitar lead.
0:41: Arpeggiated harmony C.
0:57: Cadence D (more accented), pedal harmony modulating (tremolo scoops).
1:24: Cadence A, pedal with guitar lead, cadence A, pedal with lead, cadence A, heavy figure B.
1:56: Arpeggiated harmony C, syncopated 2-chord arpeggio figure modulating, cadence A.
2:32: Guitar solo over modulating tempo/harmony variations of previous sections, ending in pedal harmony.
4:09: Cadence D, pedal harmony modulating.
4:36: Cadence A, heavy figure B, cadence A, pedal w. lead, cadence A, pedal harmony w lead.
5:08: Arpeggiated harmony C, final cadence and enigmatic guitar motif.
4 Tightrope  6:09 (Jack Bruce)

     This song has some fascinating groove elements, and Allan skillfully navigates the schizophrenic tempos and changes. 

0:00: Solo vocal line (with textural guitar and drums) leads to dramatic accents and drum rolls.
1:45: Broad groove becomes a stuttering/syncopated pedal rhythm, modulating.
2:34: Broad groove with scooped guitar chords.
2:47: Guitar solos over alternating episodes of the stuttering/modulating pedal groove and the broad groove with scooped guitar chords.
5:06: Vocal returns over dramatic accent chords/drum rolls.

Next: Back to Beck
Previous Chapter: Bruford: One Of A Kind

Go to the Table of Contents... 

The numbers in parentheses after Allan's quotes above refer to sources listed in the Bibliography
For more detailed information on this chapter, see the Annotated Chronology.

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