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Monday, October 23, 2017

29: 21st Century Schizoid Prog

Soft Works: Abracadabra (2003)
     The first half of the '00s again saw Allan guesting on several albums from both old friends and new... In 2002, Allan had a reunion with Soft Machine/Holdsworth & Co. drummer John Marshall, joined by some "Softs" whom he'd never played with before: reedist/pianist Elton Dean and bassist Hugh Hopper. The resulting album recaptured the chemistry Allan had with the original Soft Machine, complete with odd time signatures and long saxophone solos. Before and after releasing Abracadabra in 2003, Allan ended up touring with Soft Works as well (which at this stage in his career was somewhat unusual for Allan to do).
     "I revisited Soft Machine with the Soft Works project. I felt it was something I should do, but it became a logistics problem with the three guys being in England and me being in America. Another reason for why we didn’t do more is because sadly, Elton Dean passed away. That was really tragic. Before he went on a vacation to Tahiti in 2004, he stopped at my house and spent a couple of days with me. On his last day with me, we went to the golf club to get a few beers, then he left and it was the last time I saw him." (65)

Allan Holdsworth: SynthAxe, Guitar
Elton Dean: Alto Saxophone, Saxello, Fender Rhodes Electric Piano
Hugh Hopper: Bass
John Marshall: Drums

Recorded at Eastcote Studios, London on June 6 & 7, 2002, mixed by Allan Holdsworth. 
TrkTitleDurSong Breakdown
1Seven Formerly10:22(Dean/Marshall, this song is also known as "Seven For Lee")

     This tune is based on a 7/8 pedal vamp and features some lyrical playing from Dean for most of it..

0:00: Oscillating synth pattern, bass pedal.
0:45: Light cymbals, swelled guitar and sax join over a loose modal texture. Drums ramp up with snare rolls.
3:06: Harmony briefly modulates and then returns to a mid-tempo 7/8 pedal groove (sax solo continues).
4:13: Accented guitar comping begins, developed.
6:33: Guitar solo (also featuring drums).
7:49: Sax becomes more aggressive as guitar returns to light comping.
8:54: Groove begins to dissipate and briefly modulate in an ending cadence, oscillating synth reprise.
2First Trane11:33(Hopper)

     Hopper presents a casual, "jungle-flavored" groove for the band to freely extemporize on. The main section eventually develops a simple turnaround to mark out choruses.

0:00: Slinky bass vamp leads a kind of "exotica" groove (guitar swells/accented comping), sax solo.
2:33: Bass briefly dialogues with a sax motif, returns to main riff, later veers off again.
3:46: Harmony briefly modulates (cadence), then returns to pedal groove.
4:39: Cadence, groove resumes, bass becomes more ornamented, cadence returns, etc..
6:47: Falling rhythmic motif leads to guitar solo.
7:41: 2nd chorus guitar solo.
8:31: 3rd chorus guitar solo (sax resumes lead for turnaround cadence).
9:50: Falling rhythmic motif reprised and developed for final choruses.
10:45: Ride cymbal begins a straight beat, leading to final textural cadence.

     After Allan's chord-swell intro, this tune becomes a pleasantly-modulating 6/8 groove. After the guitar solo it does a "metric modulation" to straight time.

0:00: Solo guitar swells.
0:43: Mid-tempo triplet groove led by sax lead (guitar comps).
3:40: Guitar solo (overdubbed) over gently strummed chords.
4:25: 2nd chorus guitar solo.
5:08: 3rd chorus guitar solo.
5:45: Groove slows down to a duple meter as sax solo resumes (guitar arpeggios).
4K Licks6:50(Phil Miller, previously recorded as "Calyx")

     After a somewhat wonky head, the group develops into a long, repeating fanfare featuring the sax and drums.

0:00: Sax and fuzz bass play a thorny unison head, joined by subtle cymbals and guitar textures.
0:48: Bass plays fanfare harmony as drums ramp up (drum rolls, etc) and sax solo continues. Guitar continues to comp.
5:35: Sax and bass resume unison figure head, final rave-up, synth textures.
5Baker's Treat5:40(Dean)

     Allan plays the changes beautifully in this fairly straight jazz ballad, somewhat reminiscent of the None Too Soon sessions..

0:00: Count off leads to ballad with sax in lead voice (gentle guitar swells). Sax solos for a couple choruses.
1:01: Sax solo.
2:37: Guitar solo.
4:25: Sax re-enters with head, final cadence (unresolved).
6Willie's Knee5:17(Dean)

     This funky tune features a pretty jovial solo from Allan, and somewhat revisits some territory from the Nucleus and Tony Williams Lifetime days.

0:00: Mid-tempo funky groove with Fender Rhodes accents, added choral synth harmonies.
1:03: Guitar enters with solo as funk groove modulates through the changes.
1:49: Guitar solo 2nd chorus.
2:31: Guitar solo 3rd chorus.
2:53: Sax solo, choir synth patches re-enter for final cadences.

     Allan doesn't take a solo on this interesting harmony, but he does offer some unusually dynamic comping instead. The somewhat Middle-Eastern vibe would get revisited in other albums (see below).

0:00: Sax ornaments over textural "Zone-like" figures, building on a 2-chord harmony.
1:48: Bass becomes more aggressive and accented (modal vamp) and the band follows suit. The bass and drum groove is developed with more and more accents.
3:20: Pedal harmony begins to modulate.
4:17: The groove relaxes into a more open vamp, "exotic" (somewhat Middle Eastern) synth harmonies enter. Sax continues solo.
6:55: Free textures return with added SynthAxe sweeteners. 
8Madame Vintage4:52(Holdsworth/Marshall)

     This tune features Allan and old pal John Marshall just going at it. This intricate dialogue amply honors their history together. This head would also be employed in Allan's own set lists during this period, typically as an intro to a longer medley. The track "Monsieur Vintage" from Chad Wackeman's album "Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations" implies the same chord melody in its head.

0:00: Chordal swells and drum rolls develop a gently-modulating chord-melody head.
0:38: Guitar lead and drum duet (free improvisation).
3:30: Chord-melody head reprise as drums continue ornaments on toms, chord-swell postlude, final "mystery" chords.

(Photo Erik Poulsen)
     Interestingly, Soft Works (sometimes billed as "SoftWare") tour dates included additional songs "Face Lift" (from Soft Machine's Third), "Kings and Queens" (Fourth), "As If" (Fifth), and "Alphrazallan", a Holdsworth original. "Alphrazallan" was partially recorded with Soft Works (and also partly completed in the studio with Jimmy Johnson and Gary Husband), but was only to surface on the Holdsworth live album All Night Wrong.

Other Collaborations
     Below is a continuation of Allan's most notable episodes as a "jazz-rock gunslinger" in the new millenium. As in his '90s outings, Allan tends to play more "accessible" lines as a guest soloist, most likely due to the more conservative harmonies he played over (conservative compared to Allan's own "lunatic" chord modulations, anyways). In any case, it's fun stuff, and in some cases he explored more global (world) music flavors than he ever did in his own compositions.

Derek Sherinian:
     Planet X's core members were keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Virgil Donati. In the new millennium, Allan collaborated on a couple of their solo albums, and Virgil Donati ultimately became Allan's main drummer for tours in the latter part of the decade.
     "Things can be hard because sometimes when I play something, it’s going to have similarities to something I’ve done before. I try not to do the same things so it feels like I’m really improvising, but sometimes I catch myself and think “Geez, didn’t I hear that somewhere else?” and I’ll go and erase two or three tracks at a time. I did a lot of stuff for the guys in Planet X. I was supposed to play on everything on one of their albums, but in the end I only played on two tracks. I originally played on seven tracks, but I came back from the pub one night and played the stuff and hated it, so I erased it. The next morning, I thought I should listen to the original tracks again to see what I could do with them, but in my stupor, I had actually reformatted the drives and needed to get the material re-transferred so I could start again. Unfortunately, I ended up not finishing the project." (65)
  • "Day Of The Dead": Heavy boogie with Zakk Wylde on lead and rhythm guitar. At 3:16 a slower groove leads to Allan's slowly-building guitar solo. Some interesting Middle-Eastern harmonies can be heard here. After a keyboard solo the heavy boogie riffing returns, which leads to Allan's 2nd solo at 5:27. At 7:32 Allan takes a 3rd brief solo over a chugging rhythm.
  • "One Way Or The Other": Like the previous song, this proggy tune also features Jerry Goodman on violin. Allan's solo comes in over a modulating groove from 1:38. A second guitar solo chorus occurs after a brief scalar interlude.
Planet X:
     The below two songs are referenced in the earlier quote. They were also performed live at the January 2012 NAMM show as well.
  • "Desert Girl": A rolling piano arpeggio figure is supported by swelled chords, soon transitioning into various groove constructions. At 1:31 a throbbing bass vamp is joined by overdubbed guitar tracks playing a brief lead motif. At 3:49 Allan takes a solo over a more cheerful groove. 
  • "The Thinking Stone": Drums lead to a progressive funk/boogie groove. At 2:18 Allan does a duet with the drums (somewhat modal harmonically).
Pray For Rain
  • "Oceans to Cross": This pop-prog tune features a Holdsworth solo from around 2:30. Here he employs some nice tremolo bar articulation reminiscent of his mid-80s style.
Book Of The Dead
     Allan contributed LOTS of solos here, and much of it even stays within a "major" harmony. In other words, the soaring flights from Hard Hat Area are somewhat continued in these journeys. In alot of ways, this is kind of like a 21st Century "U.K.".
  • "Infinite Voyage"
    • 0:00: Synth pedal textures, joined by piano/harp figures.
    • 1:34: Lurching/syncopated pedal groove with guitar solo, modulating to major key at 2:35.
    • 3:24: Textural sequence with violin lead, vocal verse.
    • 6:03: Heavy instrumental groove, vocal bridge.
    • 8:05: Violin and guitar solo trades over accented groove.
    • 8:57: Keyboard solo, vocals resume.
    • 10:18: Guitar lead re-enters over vocal chorus, end cadence.
    • 10:51: Textural interlude.
    • 11:28: Mid-tempo groove with guitar solo.  
    • 13:38: Guitar lead ends over synth textures, vocal resumes.
    • 14:51: Mid-tempo march groove with verse.
    • 16:10: Keyboard solo.
    • 17:11: Rhythmic motif, synth solo soon giving way to a guitar solo, modulating grooves.
    • 18:27: Scalar melodic motif, metric modulation, vocal resumes.
    • 20:17: Accented groove becomes synth texture, then march groove, vocal resumes. Cadence.
    • 21:11: Bass solo over a broader groove, verse.
    • 22:05: Outro guitar solo.
    • 22:38: Harpsichord/synth/choir patch coda. 
  • "Mirror to The Spirits"
    • 0:00: Accented fanfare chords lead to a bass solo over softly modulating synth.
    • 0:58: Rhythmic figure leads to mid-tempo groove, 1st verse.
    • 3:30: Guitar solo over textural pedal harmony, eventually modulating.
    • 4:24: Groove resumes with bass ornamentation, 2nd verse, etc. 
  • "The Edge of Light": 
    • 0:00: Accented mid-tempo groove with violin lead, 1st verse over a broader groove, synth solo, 2nd verse, 2nd synth solo.
    • 3:13: Guitar solo over pedal vamp.
    • 3:48: Chorus with violin lead.
    • 5:58: Guitar outro solo over pedal synth vamp. 
  • "Cloak of Antiquity"
    • 0:00: Accented pedal chords with violin lead, pounding verse groove.
    • 1:41: Bridge sequence, 2nd verse.
    • 3:21: Bridge, synth solo, bass solo over held textures.
    • 4:50: Guitar solo over accented pedal chords, then denser groove variations. 
Sonic Undertow
     This project is the brainchild of long-time Holdsworth fan/friend Chris Hoard. Its synthesis of hip hop, global music, fusion and prog is a fascinating experiment that sounds quite fresh... Again, Allan is pretty generous with his leads here and delivers some more tonally "playful" material than is usually found on his own albums. The notes below indicate where the guitar is most prominent, but in this project Allan's leads are so interwoven with the songs it's probably just best to the album "wash over" you (no pun intended). 
     Chris Hoard is an "occasional" free-lance entertainment and music journalist (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly, Jazziz), and music producer (co-producer of "Then!" and "Against The Clock" with Allan). He also edited, designed, and wrote text for Allan's "Reaching for the Uncommon Chord". 
  • "Time To Move On": Allan adds a lead line echoing the main melodic motif, followed by some power chords. At 1:13 Allan interjects a guitar solo, before the rap resumes. Allan continues his solo at 2:20. His final solo comes in at 3:26.
  • "Time Off In Tannu Tuva": This is a piano-arpeggio driven tune joined by a hefty baritone guitar solo at 0:46 (over some brief Tuvan throat singing!). After a short synth interlude the guitar solo resumes at around 3:14. The solo continues over a reprise of the opening piano arpeggio figure. After another brief throat singing interlude the guitar solo continues at 4:56 to the end fade out.
  • "Free Da Radicals": This tune features a limber arpeggiated melodic motif on guitar as well as some more vocal hip hop. Allan's "proper" solo starts at 0:41 and continues through a couple groove modulations. A synth lead is featured before the return of the acrobatic guitar melody at 3:07 (followed by a second solo).
  • "Chasing Tsunamis": Spoken word over an uptempo dance beat: the groove starts incorporating vinyl scratching and various other accented elements. At 3:53 Allan takes a solo over a techno-synth groove. A synth solo is followed by more Allan lead playing at 5:16, more synth and then some final ornamental guitar lines.
  • "Long Voyage Home": Allan's guitar enters briefly near the beginning of this insistent piano groove. He takes a much longer solo from 2:15 as the groove becomes heavier and modulates. Eventually the opening piano groove returns, joined by some more ornamental guitar leads.
  • "Jurrassic City": Synth-driven mid-tempo fusion groove. Allan's lead enters at 0:25. The groove abruptly changes to a mutant swing beat and Allan rolls with it (followed by a keyboard solo). The guitar solo resumes shortly and covers several groove changes, synth solo interjections and sudden rhythmic interludes. Allan gets almost bluesy at some points in this song.
  • "Forgotten Planet Suite - Part I": An opening piano cadenza leads to a mutating groove with a subtle guitar counter line. This is shortly followed by a limber solo on a DeLap piccolo guitar ("Igor", lowest pitch standard guitar open A) at 1:13. Another solo comes in at 4:00.
  • "Forgotten Planet Suite - Part II": Another piano intro with accented chords leads to a guitar solo over majestic harmonies (and sound effects). A second solo enters at 2:43 over decidedly bluesy chords. At 3:27 Allan re-enters for a brief outro statement in dialogue with the synth lead.
David Hines:
  • "Skippy": Allan enters immediately over accented fusion cadences.This is followed by a winding melodic motif, and a full solo at 1:19. After a bass solo sequence, Allan returns at 2:45 for a 2nd lead.
  • "Antillia": Bass ornaments around accent chords lead to a syncopated funk groove. Allan takes a solo over a somewhat broader, cheerier groove at 5:39.
Jean-Luc Ponty:
The Acatama Experience
  • "Point of No Return"
    • 0:00: Piano-driven opening theme, joined by violin top line, then harmonized, ending in accented cadence with violin ornaments.
    • 1:16: Violin solo over modulating harmony, ending in accented cadence, reprise of opening structure.
    • 3:13: Allan's guitar solo over a two chord vamp.
    • 4:38: Opening theme in a thicker orchestration.
    • 5:01: Violin and guitar trade solo fragments.
    • 5:35: Accented cadence, reprise of opening structure, coda.
Dan Carlin:
  • "El Gato Fandango": This light, funky fusion tune has a Holdsworth guest solo at 2:48 over a gently-modulating pedal.
Chris Buck:
  • "Kanines": This bass-driven pop-fusion groove has Allan's solo at 2:44 over a heavy pedal vamp, with a brief clean section in the middle. The guitar returns at 4:50 for a tasty outro solo over the main groove.
(with Allan Holdsworth)
  • "Highway Star": This relatively faithful cover features a Holdsworth guitar solo at 1:56 over a modulating pedal, later followed by a (tongue-in-cheek?) SynthAxe "Hammond organ" solo at 3:52. The first guitar solo pedal sequence has a pretty good example of Allan applying a substitute scale to the underlying harmony.
Eric Keyes:
Back in Blue
  • "No One Knows My Thirst": This electronic dance-pop number features Allan soloing at 2:16 over an upbeat harmony. His playing here somewhat draws upon his classic '80s Road Games style. He adds a tasty and melodic outro solo at 3:20.
Gary Husband:
Dirty And Beautiful
Vol. 1 & 2
(2010, 2012)
  • Vol. 1 (none of these tracks feature a Holdsworth guitar solo, but they do include a couple of Allan's tunes and his rhythm/textural guitar)
    • "Leave 'Em On" (Holdsworth composition, with Jan Hammer keys solo):
      • 0:00: Cymbals groove, modulating vamp (syncopated and accented)
      • 0:56: Modulating arpeggio transition with accented cadences, vamp reprise.
      • 1:14: Jan Hammer synth solo over main vamp sequence, transition, etc. 
      • 3:01: Head reprise, sustained coda harmony.
    • "Between The Sheets Of Music" (with Jerry Goodman on violin): Allan adds some nice harmony guitar lines to this relaxed groove. Goodman has a pretty cool duo improv with Gary here.
    • "Boulevard Baloneyo": Keyboard leads from Gary transition to ruminative Zone-like textures based around a hypnotic bass riff. It features some new synthy textures (from Allan?) not often heard before.
    • "Fred (Board Mix Take 1)": This bonus cut from the "Dirty & Beautiful Remix Edition" is a live take of the Tony Williams Lifetime Believe It track (originally on Vol. 2) before Allan redid some guitar tracks. Allan noodles a bit at the beginning and end but otherwise has no solos here.
  • Vol. 2
    • "Fred 2011" (with Jan Hammer): Final mix of the Holdsworth tune originally recorded on Tony Williams Lifetime Believe It
Corrado Rustici:
Deconstruction Of A Postmodern Musician
  • "Tantrum to Blind": This guitar-heavy prog-fusion tune features a Holdsworth solo at 1:11 over a dark pedal vamp with organ comping. It eventually modulates to a looser groove. Rustici plays the remaining solos.
  • "Trance (feat. Dave Weckl, Allan Holdsworth, Scott Kinsey, Jimmy Haslip & Katisse Buckingham)": This fun mid-tempo synth-fusion track has a Holdsworth solo at 3:24 over a an interestingly-accented, lurching groove.
  • "Vista (feat. Virgil Donati, Allan Holdsworth, John Daversa, Andy Milne & Jimmy Haslip)": Syncopated/accented brass hits open this cool, modern "funk-sploitation" number, which features Allan coming in enigmatically at 4:10 over a pulsing synth pattern and rising harmony cadence. At 5:26 Allan adds a 2nd, looser solo, over a stuttering and modulating groove.

Next: Blues For Tony, HoBoLeMa, Crossroads, Tales From The Vault
Previous Chapter: All Night Wrong, Snakes and Ladders, Piano Interpretations

Go to the Table of Contents... 

 The numbers in parentheses after Allan's quotes above refer to sources listed in the Bibliography

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