“It was all Gordon Beck’s fault—God rest his soul,” says Allan Holdsworth of his late friend, who was the primary arranger and electric pianist on the guitarist’s just-reissued 1996 album, None Too Soon. “Gordon had the impression that my music mostly sailed past people, and he thought if I played something recognizable, they might be able to appreciate what was going on.”
None Too Soon is a collection of jazz standards by John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Django Reinhardt, and Joe Henderson—along with an Irving Berlin tune, two compositions by Beck, and an arrangement of Lennon and McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood”—but Holdsworth didn’t make many artistic concessions simply because he was playing other people’s songs.
“Gordon chose most of the tunes,” says Holdsworth, “which I hadn’t grown up playing, so when he would teach me one, it would be just like I was learning a piece of original music. I made my own charts, and my approach to playing the songs was exactly the same as on my previous albums.”
Holdsworth’s biggest challenge was finding the right solo tone for the project.
“I had to come up with a distorted tone that retained the essential character of the sound I use when playing fusion, while fitting into the context of a jazz group,” he explains. “That wasn’t easy. Eventually, I played Carvin and Steinberger guitars through amplifiers ranging from a tiny Sovtek to large Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifiers.”
Holdsworth’s clean tones were achieved by going direct into his Trident Series 24 console, and he performed the record’s synthesizer parts using a SynthAxe MIDI controller. Effects were added during mixdown by patching in “two refrigerator-sized racks of gear.”
The 2012 reissue of None Too Soon was remastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, and released on MoonJune Records. Holdsworth’s 1993 album, Hard Hat Area, was reissued concurrently, and additional titles from Holdsworth’s longout- of-print back catalog are reportedly to follow. None Too Soon is unique among the guitarist’s recordings, and it is one of the few he still holds in high regard.
“I really enjoyed making that record,” he enthuses. “The musicians were all such great guys, and we had a lot of fun.”