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Holdsworth/ Pasqua/ Haslip/ Wackerman - 2010 - "Blues for Tony"

(90:22 2CD, MoonJune Records)


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Prolusion. Dedicated to the memory of drummer Tony Williams (hence its title), Blues for Tony is the first effort by the HOLDSWORTH/ PASQUA/ HOSLIP/ WACKERMAN project at least it comes so officially. To me, however, it sounds like this is more of a Holdsworth and Pasqua outing, which merely has Jimmy Haslip and Chad Wackerman participating in it as musicians, than, say, a 100-percent quartet release. The fact is that only Allan and Alan ever played with the drummer (in the mid-70s, as members of Tony Williams New Lifetime), besides which nine of the eleven tracks on this album are their brainchildren, no matter that those have been composed in different years as well as originally with different purposes.

Disc 1 (52:18)
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TRACK LIST:

1.  Blues for Tony 11:05
2.  The Fifth 8:58
3.  It Must Be Jazz 8:38
4.  Fred 10:01
5.  Guitar Intro 3:35
6.  Pud Wud 10:02

LINEUP:

Allan Holdsworth  guitar
Alan Pasqua  keyboards
Jimmy Haslip  bass 
Chad Wackerman  drums 
Analysis. There are six tracks on Disc One, and Ill begin with Guitar Intro, since this one more than just strongly differs from the others. Only featuring Holdsworth, its made up of slow, drawn-out guitar solos, whose richness in overtones brings to mind an idea that Allan deployed a reverberation unit when played them, though Im also reminded a bit of his (famous, self-made) synth-axe while listening to this as well as some of the other pieces. The rest of the material here falls entirely into the jazz-fusion idiom and has a full-band sound nearly throughout. Nonetheless, I think it should be divided into two categories for the best effect in terms of description, of course. The longest three compositions, the title track, Fred and Pud Wus (all exceeding 10 minutes in length), consist predominantly of driving up-tempo arrangements and are generally so diverse and intricate that no listener expecting inspiring, genuinely progressive workouts will be left empty-handed, for sure. Each of these abounds in fascinating solos by Holdsworth and Pasqua, both of whom exhibit some of the best performance Ive heard from them in years. The keyboardists leads in particular display a variety and intensity that are quite rarely to be found in Allan Holdsworths albums (Im acquainted with all five of those that feature Pasqua), and are akin to those by Chick Corea in mid-70s Return To Forever or ones by Don Airey in Colosseum Mk-II. Drummer Chad Wackerman and bassist Jimmy Haslip both also shine with mastery and inspiration, particularly the latter, who tirelessly weaves his own intricate patterns, those crossing the length and breadth of the leaders ones. Yes, this means that there are no unison soloing lines on either of the longer pieces (anywhere on this disc, actually), nor are there any other standard jazz tricks: comprehend? The remaining two tracks, The Fifth and It Must Be Jazz, are also semi-epic in length, but contain noticeably fewer keyboards-driven moves than the previously described three; both are basically slow-paced, having a sort of atmospheric quality to them. Nevertheless, its enough to lend an attentive ear to them to quickly realize that they are constantly evolving compositions also. Each refers to Allan Holdsworths solo work only think Atavachron rather than Metal Fatigue (sorry if you have no idea of the difference between these creations). Most of the first Discs contents are amazingly interesting, and the CD comes across as one of the very best jazz-fusion recordings Ive heard this as well as in the last year.

Disc 2 (38:04)
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TRACK LIST:

1.  Looking Glass 10:07
2.  To Jaki, George & Thad 4:51
3.  San Michele 11:31
4.  Protocosmos 5:46
5.  Red Alert 5:50
Analysis. That being said, Disc-2 musically in many ways mirrors the first one. For instance, there is also a track here, namely To Jaki, George & Thad, which has only one of the players behind it, and it doesnt come as a surprise at all that its Alan Pasqua this time. Performed with true passion, this is a sophisticated piano piece, and to my ears, it almost completely eliminates the border between jazz and symphonic music. Unlike the above Allan Holdsworths solo effort, this one is an elaborated, in all senses full-fledged composition, highly impressive. All the tracks here that feature the entire quartet develop logically as well (meaning, as those on Disc-1 do), the musicians still carefully diversifying their parts which turns out to be particularly effective on such pieces as Protocosmos and Red Alert. Located at the end of the CD, these two are largely improvisational in nature, having an axis of a sort, around which the band builds its arrangements. In other words, both are basically fairly straightforward, but, thanks to the players (all of whom most of the time push their solos into different directions), come across as nearly in all senses full-blown jazz-fusion compositions, having a distinct progressive message. Finally, the semi-epic pieces, Looking Glass and San Michele, are both on most levels similar to their brothers in length (with your permission) from the first disc, and so I feel free to omit detailing these. Now, that Im already familiar with the entire album, I think it should have been compiled in a somewhat different way than it is partly because its first part is noticeably longer in duration than the second one, but mainly due to the fact that each of those contain two tracks that have too many similarities between themselves to be placed one after another. In short, if either The Fifth or It Must Be Jazz from Disc-1 had been replaced with any of the two pieces that Disc-2 finishes with, and vice versa, the album wouldve been more variegated in appearance.

Conclusion. While recorded live, the both discs have an excellent sound quality audiophiles, please take a notice of this. Whats really significant in my view, however, is that this all-instrumental effort is full of inventive, passionate, truly progressive arrangements, and while performed by technical wizards, it is not yet a show of musical chops. I like the album even better than some of the classics from the heyday of the genre, e.g. Weather Reports I Sing the Body Electric or Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy by Return To Forever, both of which contain compositions that are almost as heavily repetitive as traditional hard rock songs (such as the title track of the latter, for instance). So I heartily recommend it to all open-minded prog-heads, let alone fans of Jazz-Fusion.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: May 15 & 16, 2010
The Rating Room


Related Links:

MoonJune Records
Allan Holdsworth


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