Allan Holdsworth Biography
Allan Holdsworth (born August 6, 1946 in Bradford, West Yorkshire) is an English jazz guitarist and composer.
Allan Holdsworth is a jazz/fusion guitarist and is widely known for his contributions to the genre. He is acclaimed for the complexity of his compositional and improvisational work, as well as his astounding technical skill. Reviewers have compared his compositions to Liszt, and he is also lauded for his peerless technique by rock guitarists such as Edward Van Halen ("He's the best in my book."), Yngwie Malmsteen ("I had to take my hat off to him.") and Frank Zappa ("He's the most interesting guitarist in the universe.") and Steve Vai ("The two best electric guitarists are Jeff Beck and Allan Holdsworth."). The unique efficiency of his playing style, and his mathematical approach to mentally mapping out the fretboard allows him to 'see' symmetrical finger patterns, which produce note flourishes that approach the fluidity of saxophonists such as Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane.
Holdsworth pioneered several techniques that have been widely imitated by other guitarists. These include using an eight-voice modulated delay to create a chorusing effect that, combined with unusual closed voiced chords, create a very piano-like sound from an ordinary electric guitar. He uses a legato phrasing technique with light picking that causes a distorted guitar amplifier to produce a reedy, clarinet-like tone. A third innovative technique is using a volume pedal to "swell" chords into a long delay/reverb effect, generating the impression of an orchestral string section. These three techniques were used by Holdsworth to create the aural illusion of classical instruments, years before the invention of guitar/synthesizers, and have been adopted by increasing numbers of guitarists such as Frank Gambale, Scott Henderson, Bill Connors, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, David Sylvian - even pop-prog band It Bites frontman Francis Dunnery and Fredrik Thordendal of the tech metal band, Meshuggah.
Holdsworth has recorded many different styles of music over the years, including a brief flirtation with pop, in the form of a collaboration with British funk fusion pop band Level 42.
His first recording was with Igginbottom ('Wrench') in 1969. In the early Seventies, Holdsworth joined Jon Hiseman's Tempest, overlapping briefly with the legendary Ollie Halsall. Subsequently Holdsworth worked with jazz rock groups Gong, Soft Machine, The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Jean-Luc Ponty and later in the decade he was a member of the all-star progressive rock quartet UK with John Wetton, Bill Bruford and Eddie Jobson. Some of his notable instrumental work in the 70's can be heard on Lifetime's 'Believe It' album, and the first two (Bill) Bruford Band albums ('Feels Good To Me' and 'One Of A Kind'). At the end of the 70's, becoming increasingly frustrated by the music scene, Allan Holdsworth worked and recorded with long term collaborator Gordon Beck and one of the UK's leading jazz improvisors and drummer John Stevens.
He is also recognized for his own compositions, which vary in musical style from progressive fusion jazz (for example, his work with Soft Machine on their album Bundles), to romantic, chordal and "spacey" guitar/synthesizer works. He utilises an instrument called 'the SynthAxe', examples of which can be heard on the albums Atavachron, the SynthAxe only Flat Tire and the second CD of Against The Clock. It is Allan's SynthAxe recordings that motivated readers of Guitar Player magazine to vote him "Best Synth Guitarist" for several years. Although he is not the first guitarist to record with a synthesizer, he elevated the technique of synthesizer guitar to be on par with electric and acoustic guitar techniques. An incredibly down-to-earth musician, Allan famously said in his instructional video that he "doesn't really like the guitar", and prefers the sound of a saxophone.
Holdsworth was brought to the attention of Warner Bros. executive Mo Austin by Edward Van Halen, resulting in the 1983 Warner Bros. release of Holdsworth's album "Road Games". Edward Van Halen stated in Guitar Player magazine that Holdsworth was a major influence on his playing. This influence can be heard in Van Halen's "Push Comes to Shove" solo from the album "Fair Warning". Guitarist from diverse traditions including Joe Satriani acknowledged Holdsworth as a major influence. Although Holdsworth downplays his impact on other musicians in published interviews, he has been acknowledged by many elite musicians as a source of inspiration.
Holdsworth's discography includes over fourteen titles as a band leader, yet he has recorded with many other notable muscians. A partial list of artists with whom Allan has recorded, other than those listed above, are Stanley Clarke, Gordon Beck, Carl Verheyen, Chad Wackerman, Gary Willis, David Hines, K2, Riptyde, Gong, Derek Sherinian, Planet X, and Gongzilla.
Recommended recordings are 'Secrets' (which arguably contains his best 'SynthAxe' work), 'Atavachron', 'Sand', 'Metal Fatigue' (which includes the signature solo on 'Devil Take the Hindmost'), 'Wardenclyffe Tower', which showcases Holdsworth's use of the baritone guitar and'The Sixteen Men Of Tain', which has a more jazz-tinged flavour.