GOODBYE, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH. Remembering A Guitarist Like No Other.

Posted by Rick Frystak, April 20, 2017 05:48pm | Post a Comment

by Rick Frystak

On April 15, 2017, I was very saddened to be told that guitarist / violinist / composer Allan Holdsworth had passed away, leaving behind a legacy of recordings and for me, countless live performances I witnessed that will live forever in my soul. Along with being shocked, I just did not believe my brother's text that this news had happened. Fake? It was then that I was pointed to Facebook, where Allan's daughter had quietly and thoughtfully revealed her father's death.

The timing of his passing was, and is absolutely spooky. 2 weeks previously we had  seen Allan perform a celebratory gig to mark the release of a project in which I had participated in the production, and my brother Peter had provided photographs for: a huge, 12-CD box set of almost all of his albums,The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever. and a 2-CD set, Eidolon, of his ''best'' songs selected by Allan himself. I was grievously perplexed. I have to remind myself now that Allan had to be happy to see that the CD projects were on the store shelves. Dan Perloff, producer of the CDs for Manifesto Records, has said that the box set is already sold out. 

I first heard Allan while he was a member of the group Tempest., and their album Tempest. We knew immediately that this man was no ordinary guitarist. 

Then he turned up ''shredding'' in Tony Williams' new Lifetime, and the Believe It! LP. UK! Bruford! All great Allan groups. He had a fantastic ''rolling'' sound when he soloed, mixing the hammered-on notes at the frets with his picked notes, and hitting every one. Ahh...those notes!

His solos reminded us of John Coltrane's ''sheets of sound'' effect, where the highly increased speed and a pure accuracy made the sound almost like flowing liquid. His tone and vibrato was like a dangerous animal in it’s own environment that no one dare go near, really swinging like hell with its unique voice. laughing with attitude. He had a progressive sentimentality about him, hand-stretching chords sweet and intimate, yet so powerful in their emotional impact, like a 20th century music all it's own. He was so self-critical that often, incomprehensibly, he would say he hated his playing, in perhaps a frustration of not physically achieving what he was ''hearing'' in his heart. What could THAT be?



                              But, you could always tell when it was Allan. Nobody played like him.

photos by Peter Frystak


 Through the years he endorsed and designed various guitars and amps, wrote guitar books and pioneered the Synthaxe, a midi guitar-to-synthesizer instrument that made him sound like a keyboard player. He said he had to stop using it when it's pedalboard-controller was stolen from him.

From his CTI album, ''Velvet Darkness", with Narada Michael Walden on drums just killing it (but the label mistreating Allan) through all his projects with perfectly titled albums like Atavachron, Hard Hat Area and The Sixteen Men of Tain and always with top-drawer musicians, I was a devoted fan, enchanted by what he was doing with his mind and a guitar. He was taking the elements of jazz from the late 60's and early 70's that he'd been hearing and incorporating them into the rock feel he'd been playing since he was quite young. The music grew and grew into a progressive rock / jazz (who cares about labels?) battering ram, its power unequaled by anyone attempting this kind of sound. And not many attempted to do it, NO one coming close to his powerful genius. The man simply SCORCHED the minds and souls of those present with his style. And he changed the way the guitar was  perceived while he did it. No one has ever even approached his level of vision, with those chromatic/12-Tone/Mixolydian/whatever- runs all put together into a singular, awe-inspiring sound, where at times I think even Allan himself didn't know what he was doing. Once again, the devine energy playing through a musician.
So I, of course would jump for joy whenever I saw that he was doing a gig in town. Little did I know that his last gig would, indeed, be a very special one for me. 
Artists like Allan come along once in a lifetime. There is no one like him, to this day.
                                 Goodbye and Godspeed, Maestro Allan Holdsworth, (1946-2017) 


Read the sterling review of ''The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever" by John Kelman here.


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Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (1), Jazz Rock Guitar (2), Annette Peacock (1), U.k. (1), Tempest (1), Progressive Rock Guitar (1), Prog Rock (6), Essential Records (35), Jazz Rock (4), Jazz Fusion (2), Believe It! (1), Allan Holdsworth (3), The Tony Willams Lifetime (1), Tony Williams (4)