Allan Holdsworth: 5 Acts of Legend

The life of the great Allan Holdsworth, examined in this month's "5 Acts of Legend."
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● Drawn to the sound of John Coltrane’s saxophone, Allan Holdsworth was compelled to create equally fluid legato lines on the guitar, which he adopted at age 17 after a sax proved too expensive. A self-taught guitarist, the English-born musician received his initial training from his grandfather, a jazz pianist, who, with his wife, raised the youngster.

● Holdsworth developed his signature “outside” sound by exploring a wealth of scale forms in his solos and building a vocabulary of unorthodox chord progressions. Lauded by Frank Zappa as “one of the most interesting guys on the planet,” Holdsworth influenced Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson and Joe Satriani, among many other guitarists.

● After spending years supporting prog-rock and fusion acts like Soft Machine, the New Tony Williams Lifetime and the supergroup U.K., Holdsworth had a breakthrough in 1982 when Van Halen helped sign him to Warner Bros. The resulting Road Games EP from 1983 was nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the 1984 Grammy Awards.

● In 1986, Holdsworth became the most visible proponent of the SynthAxe, a guitarlike MIDI controller. He featured the instrument on that year’s Atavachron album and continued to use it for the remainder of his long musical career.

● A guitarist’s guitarist, Holdsworth followed his muse with a singularly pure vision up until his death from a heart attack in April 2017 at the age of 70. Said his longtime drummer Gary Husband, “He chased simply what he heard and what he loved.”