Allan Holdsworth has, for the past thirty years, eluded widespread recognition and commercial success. Nevertheless he’s a guitarist’s guitarist; a musician’s musician, if you will. He has influenced a younger generation of guitarists that includes Eddie Van Halen, Scott Henderson and Frank Gambale. Often imitated but never copied, Allan remains a unique voice in the fusion realm of jazz.
All Night Wrong, Holdsworth’s latest release, shows exactly why, when it comes to comparisons in the guitar world, he is in a league of his own. With a reputation as a perfectionist who often takes years between studio releases, All Night Wrong captures him in the risky setting of a live performance; but if there are any gaffs here, I can’t find them.
It’s all here: the close-voiced chordal work; the legato lines; and the rapid-fire flurry of notes which bring to mind John Coltrane’s sheets of sound. Holdsworth has, in fact, cited Coltrane as an influence and that’s no surprise. This is not the modal music that Coltrane explored for most of his career, but Holdsworth’s guitar breathes more like a saxophone and, with a distinct lack of attack, sounds more like one as well.
All Night Wrong finds Holdsworth in a trio setting with long-time musical companions Jimmy Johnson on bass and Chad Wackerman on drums. The simpatico is evident from the opening drum barrage of "Lanyard Loop." He revisits older compositions such as "Water on the Brain Pt. II" and shows a remarkable ability to switch between tones that will have guitar players out there scratching their heads and wondering how he does it.
But this is not just an album for guitarists. Compositionally, Holdsworth is a unique voice in fusion. One can find some links with Scott Henderson’s Tribal Tech, and Chad Wackerman’s solo CDs but to put it quite simply, nobody writes or plays like Allan Holdsworth.
With all the negative connotations that fusion sometimes receives, it’s important to note that this isn’t simply a bombastic, pointless display of monster chops. This album swings, and even at its most intense, as in "The Things You See", melody and direction in the solos are always paramount. From "Gas Lamp Blues", which sounds like no blues I’ve ever heard, to "Above & Below", this trio shows that they can cover a broad spectrum of feels, from powerhouse intensity to tender ballads.
Unquestionably one of Holdsworth’s finest releases, All Night Wrong belongs in the collection of anyone who appreciates fusion with a difference.
All Night Wrong is currently only available as an import from the UK.