Started listening to Allan Holdsworth since Bill Bruford's "Feels Good To Me" LP. Saw him a couple of times over the years when he played in Montreal. To me, his playing was complex and fluid. Always a joy to see him playing on stage.
The tributes by Frank Gambale and Bill Bruford are excellent. I am bothered by the statement that AH was penniless.
I am deeply saddened to hear the news about my friend and musical guitar genius Allan Holdsworth’s death.
I loved him. I’ll never forget the first time I heard him was on Jean-luc Ponty’s Enigmatic Ocean. His solos and tone on the first tune and that album are what stands in my mind as some of the most beautiful brilliant guitar playing ever recorded. From there I went on to discover more and more amazing guitar playing with Tony Williams Lifetime and his solo albums were mind-bending. I was about 17 at this time. A kid from Canberra, Australia and by this time had been playing guitar since I was 5 or 6 yet I had absolutely no idea what he was doing and I had absolutely no idea how to even begin playing like that. He quickly became a genius I classified as inimitable.
I loved what he stood for. I loved his uncompromising musicality and innovation on the guitar. He carved a path where no one had gone before. To lead is MUCH harder than to follow. He led. He led multitudes of guitar players and indeed players of all instruments into wildly new possibilities. He bent our ears. His music was deeply complex, like an Einstein equation on a blackboard that often times left most listeners bewildered, confused, uncomfortable, disoriented….but for those of us who had spent many years playing and studying music, revering those unique humans that go far beyond what we think is possible, we got it!
I wrote Allan a letter many years ago praising him as highly and as eloquently as I could because, I got it. I wanted him to know that I got it and I told him, because I wanted him to know, that what he had achieved was brilliant, genius, art in its highest and purest innovative form and that I loved him for it. I told him also that, whether or not the world, that often celebrates talentless, insipid, pointless and over-hyped pseudo music genius’, understood or valued his greatness, I most certainly did. We had a deep understanding and mutual respect for one another.
He was a gentle, self-deprecating fellow who was full of the British quirky wit. My first encounter with him was on my first Elektric Band tour. I was new (1986). Allan Holdsworth Trio was opening for us every night of the tour. So I had to go on after his genius guitar playing every night. It was an incredible trial by fire for me. I was a huge fan even back then and was in awe of him really. Alan was so funny and me, being Australian, we had an instant rapport, the ice was quickly broken and it led to decades of paths crossing.
None was more special than the “Truth In Shredding” album. The title was named by Mark Varney, the label owner, who was a huge fan of both Allan and myself. His dream was to put us together on an album. We both hated the title…shredding indeed! Anyway, the album deal stipulated that Alan and I must play a solo of at least 3 minutes in length on every track. I had to time the solo chord sequences and count choruses to add up to over 3 minutes…anyway, it was a great experience working with him and mixing and watching his process. He was the most meticulous person with tone. He had no problem tweaking for hours on a solo tone. A true perfectionist and master of audio as well as the guitar and music.
I remember being inches away from his hands on the guitar and thinking to myself, what on Earth are you playing? I couldn’t even understand it even from that kind of proximity. It was as if an alien had landed from another planet. He would often say the same thing about me and every time he did I would throw it right back at him. This would pretty much be our banter and how we greeted each other every time we saw each other. A back-and-forth of praise. “Allan you’re a genius!
He’d say: “No you!
Me: “No, no…YOU!
Alan “No YOU”…etcetera, and then laughter and hugs.
He could play through ANY chords, even 10 chords a bar like a hot knife through butter.
All those genius chords, chord-melody, heads to his compositions were truly like modern Classical music and then he would proceed to solo over them in a truly other-wordly way. His linear playing was as spectacular as his chords. No one plays like him, many have tried imitating him, but no one really came close. He was way ahead. Way ahead. Still is. Maybe in 50 years from now, when the world catches up, people will appreciate him more. I hope so. He was sadly under-compensated throughout his time on this planet.
Sadly, like many under-appreciated geniuses in this world, he died penniless. It hurts my heart to know this. So sad that the world couldn’t support such a great artist while he was alive! There is a crowd -funding link below to support the family for the memorial services.
Please give generously, I will be.
Allan, you will be missed. NAMM 2017 was the last time I gave you a BIG hug and told you how great you are. Sadly I won’t have more opportunities to do that.
Your legacy will live on through your music and the influence you have had on the music community. My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.
Rest in peace my brother in arms.
R.I.P. Allan Holdsworth (August 6, 1946 - April 16, 2017).
With enormous sadness I write to express my condolences to Allan's family on the loss of a much-loved father and grandfather, my friend and colleague. For several years in the 1970s, through my own band and 'UK', I listened to him nightly, launching sheets of sound on an unsuspecting audience, changing perceptions about what guitars and guitarists should or could be doing, thrilling me half to death.I would have paid to be at my own gig.
Allan wasn't easy, but if it was easy it wouldn't have been Allan. Like all creative musicians he was restless and relentless in pursuit of 'the perfect sound', the one that he couldn't get out of his head, the one that would never leave him alone. Now he will be at peace. Still, my guitar gently weeps.
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