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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 184 - 09/12/11

Holdsworth Pasqua Haslip Wackerman
Blues for Tony
MoonJune Records

Allan Holdsworth was involved in stearing both Soft Machine and Gong towards jazz rock fusion in the mid/late 70's, but I must admit that my knowledge of his extensive solo output is minimal. More specifically, it's limited to Metal Fatique from back in 1985, which I bought because reviews at the time described his guitar playing as innovative and futuristic. The latter mostly due to his use of new technology like digital guitar sound processors (later he was also a prominent user of the SynthAxe). His playing was perhaps a little on the technical side for my taste, so I never got around to checking out more of his albums, but when this live album landed on my desk, I was excited to renew my acquaintance.

Recorded in 2007, released last year, the double CD Blues fo Tony (referring to the late jazz drummer Tony Williams) is equally billed to the four musicians: Jimmy Haslip (electric bass), Alan Pasqua (keyboards), Chad Wackerman (drums) in addition to Holdsworth. In a setting like this the attention defaults to the electric guitar, which is somewhat unfair here. The keyboards get a fair share of soloing space and Pasqua has also composed some of the songs. The compositions are as varied as you may wish for in a traditional fusion setting, creating a nice balance between slower lyrical themes with lush keyboard sounds on one side and rather funky electric jazz rock on the other. Technically this is musicianship in the the upper division. When Holdsworth races over the frets, or Pasqua over the keys, both like bumblebees in flight, it is easy to be impressed, but more importantly, also very easy to enjoy, even if you don't really comprehend musically what's going on with all the chords and tones. All over, this sounds tightly arranged, but also feels free flowing, as the focus flows effortlessly back and forth between all four musicians. Add a sparkling dynamic sound quality, and you have a joyful experience that invites repeated visits.

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