Holdsworth Pasqua Haslip Wackerman: Blues for Tony

January 30, 2014
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The music presented on this outstanding double-CD was recorded live during this all-star quartet’s May 2007 European tour. Guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist Alan Pasqua were members of the pioneering jazz-fusion drummer Tony Williams’ band in 1975-76, and three pieces from the New Tony Williams Lifetime’s Believe It are stunningly reinterpreted here. This quartet—which also features Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and longtime Holdsworth drummer Chad Wackerman—had toured the U.S. the previous year in homage to Williams, but by the time these shows were recorded the group had transcended its origins and become a super-tight improvisational juggernaut with a unique aesthetic identity. Not surprisingly, instrumental virtuosity is key, but always in service to the music. Holdsworth’s playing is so consistently mind-boggling that attempts to identify particularly notable solos are quickly seen to be as futile and pointless as expressing preferences for individual drops of water within a tidal wave—but my favorite overall ensemble performances include revamped versions of the classic Holdsworth compositions “Fred,” “Looking Glass,” and “Pud Wud” (preceded by the atmospheric “Guitar Intro”), Pasqua’s expansive “Protocosmos,” and New Lifetime bassist Tony Newton’s blazing “Red Alert.” This is a must-have for Holdsworth enthusiasts, and an excellent primer for the uninitiated. MoonJune.

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