Afternoon, Easter Sunday 2017…I’m sitting at my desk scrolling through Facebook and I see a nice photo of Allan Holdsworth sitting on the floor with his two daughters and a granddaughter, holding his guitars. Sweet, then I’m totally shocked to find Louise Holdsworth letting us know Allan passed away, only 70.
Like many other guitarists of my generation, when I first heard Allan, I knew he was different. He redefined what a guitar sounded like, magic chords shimmering with electricity and solo lines snaking away from already ambiguous harmony.
One post high school week, both the Bruford and UK albums showed up at the local record store and since I was keeping track of Bill Bruford’s band hopping after leaving both Yes and King Crimson…these were mandatory purchases. Holdsworth’s fast lines were already legend to some, but suburban David hadn’t heard them yet…this was outta sight, guitar far removed from the blues rock of my early teen years. Eventually I became familiar with his earlier music, appearances on albums by Tony Williams, Soft Machine and others.
Eventually the new IOU album with it’s black cover also showed up and introduced us to another new sound, his fresh intuitive harmony…many of his chords a stretch from what most guitarists could reach. I’d never heard anything like it before.
By the time I got to hear the Bruford band in Asbury Park at the Fast Lane, Holdsworth was outta the group, replaced by John Clark. Finally I caught Allan at the Bottom Line, NYC. He was talking to someone in front of the stage before the show, so I shook his hand and asked for an autograph. His hand was shaking, possibly nerves. The next time I heard him in NY, the applause was so loud, the band couldn’t hear themselves…lost their groove for a few moments during the opening composition.
One band I caught at the Ritz, NYC featured Allan with Stanley Clarke, Randy Brecker and Steve Smith, apparently an unrecorded supergroup. Another time at Rutgers, with a Q&A before the show…students asking silly questions, Allan showing off his Synthaxe.
In the early ’90s, I was running around the NAMM show in Anaheim, Ca, taking care of business and noticed Allan sitting at the Carvin booth, signing autographs. I’m sorry I couldn’t stop and chat, even though he couldn’t have possibly remembered me.
A radical, brilliant, humble musician passing away far before his time.
The ultimate progrock band, Bruford: Jeff Berlin, Dave Stewart, Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth.