Allan Holdsworth—Warsaw Summer Jazz Days ‘98

Don’t let the wAcka-jaWaKa lettering on the cover throw you off! Warsaw Summer Jazz Days ’98 (Manifesto, 2019) is a well-recorded documenting of Allan Holdsworth digging deep into his muse in a trio that also showcased the chordally sympathetic six-string bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Gary Novak. Needless to say, another reminder of the vital and singular sound of Allan Holdsworth will always be more than welcome!

Featuring a quartet of tunes that later appeared on Holdsworth’s  2000 release, The Sixteen Men of Tain, this gig also includes several pieces from the late master’s fertile early 80s period, plus “Proto-Cosmos,” from his tenure with drummer Tony Williams.

By the time of this recording, Holdsworth was no longer gigging the road-risky SynthAxe, but he was still exploring the guitar as a synth controller. On the Warsaw gig, the Atavachron-era “Looking Glass” is probably the most striking reminder that Holdsworth was in a class by himself when it came to translating his guitar style into synth-friendly form. It’s also interesting to hear him incorporate synth layers into “Water on the Brain—Part II,” which is from Road Games, a collection on which the liner notes pointedly let us know that synths played no role whatsoever. But what really stands out on this gig’s “Water on the Brain—Part II” is Holdsworth’s kinetic staccato chordal comping behind Carpenter’s bass solo. (I find Carpenter’s solo tone a little on the piezo-ish trebly side, but so what.) Of course, there is a big dose of the saxophonic superhuman electric guitar fluidity that is the most famous feature of Holdsworth’s style (here most likely channeled via his custom Bill DeLap headless guitar, Yamaha DG80 amps, and a variety of effects). He really lets things fly on a near 12-minute “Letters of Marque,” as well as on “Texas”!

Allan Holdsworth – Warsaw Jazz festival 1998

● Video of Holdsworth at the 1998 Warsaw Summer Jazz Days Festival has been floating around the internet for a while, and shows its age both in audio and video quality. Audio quality on the 2019 released version is far superior to what is here. I can’t speak to video quality of the 2019 released DVD, but it would be lovely to find that it looks way better than what we see in the link below.

©2019—Guitarete/Alan Barry (except linked content)

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