A Great Musical Intellect Lost
Monday, 17 Apr, 2017
So sad: virtuoso guitarist Allan Holdsworth unexpectedly died at 70 on 16th April 2017, and I wager he’s in heaven jamming with Coltrane, maybe having a nice brew after, with a perfect head.
There are not many musicians who can carve out a niche like Holdsworth did, but carve he did. Odd in both meter and harmonic sense, Holdsworth’s genius music is an aural and intellectual feast, which defies pigeon-holing. Was it fusion? Jazz? Or just “Holdsworthian”.
I have a little anecdote. I did a couple sessions with a band here in Japan, whose leader decided we should play “Letters of Marque”, one of my absolute favorite tunes. I wrote out some notes about the tune so I could remember the changes and number of measures and so on, and after a hard-hitting sweaty run of this tune, the bass player remarked: “nice, you actually counted that out exactly.” It made me smile, and I remember the comment even 20-odd years later. Don’t mess with perfection.
His music and style was decidedly anti-pop, and most people probably wouldn’t like it, but I’m in that apparent weird minority of people who enjoy this sort of thing. Maybe you’ll like it too:
- “Letters of Marque”, i.o.u.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao70mYTLn1Q
- “Spokes” from Secrets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tinN7hn0n2Q
- “Bathsheba” from Truth in Shredding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1b-NeT0Zkc
- With Bill Bruford and Jeff Berlin in 1979 (surprisingly good video quality): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYgD8x12kfE
- Recent “AH Trio” concert in Germany: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYiVWl9l804