In the mid-1970s, guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist Alan Pasqua played together in the late drummer Tony Williams' New Lifetime band. This was a classic fusion band that turned a lot of people on to Allan Holdsworth for the first time. Holdsworth and Pasqua have collaborated several times since those days, but in 2006 they joined forces with Chad Wackerman on drums, and Jimmy Haslip on bass for a special tour to pay tribute to the music of Tony Williams. The September 29th show at Yoshi's in Oakland CA was filmed by Altitude Digital for this DVD, and the result is the best Holdsworth footage I have ever seen.
First off, this is a beautiful looking video. It's a standard DVD, but it was filmed in HD, and looks fantastic on an LCD HDTV. The footage is crystal clear, and the audio is great (for those of you wondering, there is a 5.1 surround sound option). The editing is a bit quick in some spots, but it wasn't a distraction for me.
Overall, this feels like a "band" show; not just an Allan Holdsworth show. That's not due to the song selections either, it's just an overall vibe I got from watching these players. In fact, if anyone is the leader here it's Pasqua, not Holdsworth. That said, this disc is a must-have for Holdsworth fans. His playing is a little tentative early in the show, but he seems to settle in after a couple of tunes. He takes some amazing solos, and his tone is to-die-for. I really like Pasqua's playing as well. He uses a variety of old-school fusion tones, and really locks into the groove on his solos. Wackerman and Haslip make for a very tight rhythm section too (Wackerman plays a pretty small kit in this show, which I thought was cool). The whole gig has a real "throwback" feel to it. One gets the impression Holdsworth and Pasqua wanted to turn back the clock, and jam like they did in the 70s. It's an excellent show from beginning to end, but several songs really stood out for me.
"It Must Be Jazz" is a great tune that has 2 parts. It begins as an up tempo, swing jam, but later morphs into a slow ballad. Holdsworth takes a great solo in each part of the tune.
"Blues For Tony" is another highlight. This funky blues, written by Pasqua, has Holdsworth's best solo on the disc. It's always fun to hear Holdsworth navigate more traditional chord changes with his unique harmonic sensibilities, and this solo is a perfect example of that. Wackerman takes a nice drum solo on this one as well. "San Michele" is a beautiful piece (also penned by Pasqua) that sounds very Mahavishnu-esque. Holdsworth's tone and touch are a perfect fit for the slow, soaring melody here. His solo on this one is great as well.
The final tune on the disc is a re-worked version of "Red Alert". I love what they do with this fusion classic. Forgoing the main riff at the beginning, the band starts off with a new funky shuffle groove that has no resemblance to the original tune; pretty sneaky. It isn't until the first half-step key change in Holdsworth's solo that it starts to sound like Red Alert. After Pasqua plays a great funk-inspired solo with a grinding 70's tone, they finally launch into the classic Red Alert riff at the very end. The crowd eats it up. Of the 3 songs on the disc from the old Tony Williams band (Fred, Proto Cosmos, and Red Alert), this one was my favorite.
All Holdsworth fans need this DVD in their collection. His playing has never been documented so well as on this disc. Fusion and jazz fans will dig this show also. This is a tight, grooving band with some incredible players. Kudos to Altitude Digital for putting together this fine disc. Highly recommended.
It Must Be Jazz
Blues For Tony