Jimmy Johnson is an American bassist who has appeared on several solo albums and other projects with Allan. He first appeared on record with Allan on "Metal Fatigue", and then on "Atavachron", "Sand", "Secrets" and "Wardenclyffe Tower", which would be his last studio album with Allan. Later, the live albums "All Night Wrong" and "Then!" were released featuring Jimmy.
Jimmy has also appeared on several other projects with Allan, notably "Forty Reasons", "The View" and "Dreams Nightmares And Improvissations" by Chad Wackerman, "Blue Tav" by Steve Tavaglione, "Dirty And Beautiful" Vol 1 & 2 by Gary Husband, and the final studio track released by Allan, "Earth, on "Tales From The Vault".
- 1 A Conversation With Allan Holdsworth (Abstract Logix 2005)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth (Guitarist 1985)
- 3 Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview (tlms.co.uk 2000)
- 4 Allan Holdsworth's Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)
- 5 Castles Made Of Sand (Guitarist 1987)
- 6 Guitar Like A Saxophone (Guitar World 1987)
- 7 Guitar Synths in Jazz (Music Technology 1987)
- 8 Guitarist's Guitarist (Jazz Times 1989)
- 9 HUMBLE GUITAR MASTER ALLAN HOLDSWORTH ALWAYS STRUGGLES TO PAY THE RENT
- 10 Harnessing momentum (Innerviews 2008)
- 11 Jimmy Johnson (English Tour Program 1989)
- 12 Jimmy Johnson's Bass Concept (Guitar World 1989)
- 13 No Rearview Mirrors (20th Century Guitar 2007)
- 14 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)
- 15 The Outter Limits - Allan Holdsworth's Out of Bounds Existence (guitar.com 1999)
- 16 The Reluctant Guitarist (Jazz Journal 1992)
- 17 The Unreachable Star (Guitar World 1989)
I caught up with Holdsworth following a gig with this current trio (Joel Taylor on drums, Ernest Tibbs on six-string bass) at B.B. King's Bar & Grill in Manhattan. The interview took place on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon in July on a grassy knoll in Central Park.
Bill: It was great hearing you play older things like ‘Funnels' and ‘Protocosmos' last night at B.B. King's. It reminded me of seeing Wayne Shorter in concert recently playing his older compositions like ‘Footprints' and ‘Masqualero.' These tunes are your standards, part of your legacy.
Allan: Yeah, well, that's because I haven't written much lately. I had a dry spell for the last five years. But I think it's OK to play a couple of old tunes.
Bill: It certainly is for the audience.
Allan: And also, the different musicians interpret them all very differently. So when you play the same tune with new guys, it's always new in a way and I really like that. I did some gigs with Jimmy (Johnson) and Chad (Wackerman) recently and we played some of the same pieces of music that you heard last night, and it was so different.
What are you doing at the moment?
Well, we've got a new album coming out soon in the States, called ‘Metal Fatigue', on the Enigma label. I understand it's going to be released over here, unlike the last one, Road Games', which was on Warner Brothers, but I don't know which label it will be on. Warner Brothers took an awful tong time to decide whether they wanted us to do another album or not, which is why this one's taken such a long time to come out. The majority of the recording was actually done quite a while ago, and there are two different sets of personnel. On side one it was Chad Wackerman on drums, Jimmy Johnson on bass, Paul Williams on vocals and myself on guitar. On side two Gary Husband, (an original member of the IOU band) played drums, Gary Willis was on bass and Alan Pasqua played some keyboards. The first line up is the one we're touring with at the moment, and we're just off to Japan. Hopefully, we're going back to the States to record the next album, which I'm really hoping will feature the SynthAxe.
MRJ: How's it working with (bassist) Jimmy Johnson on the new record?
AH: He's an amazing bass player. He's the perfect balance for (drummer) Gary Husband. He's like the track for the train!
He went almost a halfyear over schedule, and half his fans went crazy-eights.
"Because I'm a constant experimenter," explains Allan. "Over the last two albums, when I started using the SynthAxe, I began working with different ways of recording guitar, probably more than I should have. At points during Atavachron, I'd do things like run the amp into one speaker cabinet, mike it, feed that into another amp, and then mike up that cabinet. On The 4:15 Bradford Executive, from Sand, I used two of the little enclosed speaker cabinets I built and drove each with a different amplifier [Ed. note: These small, soundproof cabinets contain movable microphone riggings for placement in relation to the speakers]. Finding things like that can take forever. On this album, I just thought about all the things I learned from the past and tried to consolidate them. I'd say okay look, - this mike sounds good and I'm going to stop putzing with it." I did putz a lot with it in the beginning: I'd record a solo and then two days later erase it all. Jimmy Johnson would keep calling and say, "look, man, don't be erasing." I'd listen to copies of what I erased and think "Oh ,that wasn't so bad." When I start chasing the tone thing, sometimes I really go around in circles."
But Allan is far too judicious to squander time on one element in the picture he wanted to present with Secrets, which is why he chose to mix the tracks at home, away from the financial demands of a studio schedule and the distractions of travel and industry. But this kind of music lives for the bandstand, and he was called away from the console for short tours that waylaid the project even further. "We did a tour with Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy that was just wonderful," he reports, "and in the same tour played with [drummer] Chad and [bassist] Bob Wackerman, and that was wonderful. Then we did a trip to Japan with [drummer] Gary Husband and Jimmy, which was amazing. I'm so stoked to be playing with these guys. As far as I know, they're probably all saying, ‘Give me the guitar.' In fact, I tell them that every time: I say, ‘Man, the only thing wrong with this band is the guitar player. There's probably a lot of people who would agree with that, and I'm with ‘em. They played so great on the alb um, and it makes me feel particularly good, knowing I gave them the kind of freedom I would enjoy."
He's right on the first and last accounts. This band - drummers Colaiuta, Husband, or Wackerman, Johnson, and keyboardist Steve Hunt - is one of the most vital rotating units in electric jazz, and their breathtaking performances stand tall in Allan's crystalline production. From the rich ambience of the drums and Johnson's 5-st'ring Alembic all the way down to the Spaten Franziskaner ale Allan pours as a spirited coda to "City Nights," Secrets is a rich, deep collection of adventurous music that features some of the guitarist's most dramatic electric work, and some of the most expressive guitar-synthesis to be encountered anywhere.
I was considering an acoustic solo on this one. I tried recording it in my room, and it was just too noisy. If a car drove by, you'd hear it, because I'd have to have the mike really cranked. I guess I don't really have any technique on the acoustic anymore; I was getting all these noises with my hands, so I just bailed on it and went for something unusually percussive with the SynthAxe: a sampled mixture of steel-string guitar, harp, and synthesized guitar. Jimmy Johnson plays a great, really beautiful solo after Pasqua's solo, and then I do the short solo at the end. It was kind of a strange feeling, playing with that sound.
I'm a big cycling fan, and I started hearing that bass thing when I was out on my bike, just reaming out there in the hills. The line started out as a regular toy riff, a lot stiffer than the one Jimmy finished up just taking to the cleaners. And his tone is so pure; he can plug into a sideboard and sound awesome. He's the only guy I've ever met like that: Straight into the studio board, it just sounds like the largest, longest amplifier. I wish I was the same.
I also built a room inside my garage so there's like the outside garage and the inside garage - just made of two-by-fours and hardboard - just basic but it is a room and it's the first time in my life I've actually had somewhere I could work, let alone record.
What happened was, with each consecutive record I got further and further in debt with the studio, so I decided that I needed to do some recording at home. When we do the basic tracks in the studio they're always done really fast because the guys - Jimmy Johnson, Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman are so fast - and the basic tracks are done in just two or three days. So I checked around and tried a few machines and decided to get the Akai 1214. Actually it's called the 14D, I think! It's the rack mount version with no board. What we did was mix the basic studio tracks down to two tracks on the Akai and then did the rest of the overdubs at home. It worked out great because even though I couldn't get the same quality on the Akai as using a 24 track Studer, I could make up for the difference by the fact that I was able to spend more time on it - more time fine tuning the sound, rather than just having to go in there and record it because we were out of time. Everybody knows what that's like! So that worke d out pretty good with both the guitar and the synth.
Guitar fanatics showed up two hours early for his recent show at New York's Bottom Line, scrambling for front row seats in order to better trace the paths of his fingers flying tip and down the neck. They howled at the announcement of each number and nearly levitated off the floor during Holdsworth's solo excursions. Bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Chad Wackerman propelled things along as Allan switched modes from song to song - first the Steinberger, next the SynthAxe, back to the Steinberger and so on. Curiously, he never touched his patented Ibanez AH-I0 guitar. Backstage, Holdsworth talked about his recent conversion to Steinberger guitars.
"The line-up on this album is a trio. Jimmy Johnson played bass on the whole album, Chad Wackerman played drums on one side, and Gary Husband played on the other side. So it's basically a trio. We did have a guest soloist, Alan Pasqua, who is my favorite piano player. He always has been since we worked together in the Tony Williams band. I really like to work with him... He's great, a lovely guy. He played a solo on one cut. That's the only keyboard-controlled racket on the album. I'd love to get him to go on the road; he's a very busy chap, and it's difficult to get him away for any length of time. But if we did some local gigs, or some short tours, two week spans, we'd hook him up, somehow. When I work with Alan, he always seems incredibly focused. The music never changes, it grows. He always manages to take something I've written and make more of it in a way in which I would hear it. That to me is a magic thing, it rarely happens. I'm sure other people have that rapport with other, different musicians. It's almost like I want to stay as a trio unless I can get Alan to go out with us...
With or without large label interest in his career, Holdsworth is moving forward enthusiastically. He is particularly excited about the new album. Secrets, which features L.A. All Star drummer Vinnie Colaiuto [sic] on drums, Jimmy Johnson, his regular bassist, Steve Hunt (a drummer playing keyboards on Maid Marion his own piece), with Chad Wackerman (his regular drummer) also playin on one of the tracks.
For his three Town Pump dates, Holdsworth will be focusing on material from his new album Atavachron. Named after a word he heard in a Star Trek episode, the new LP features a newly developed instrument called the Synth Axe. “It's like the next generation of machines that guitarists can play to control synthesizers,” says Holdsworth. As well as his trusty Synth Axe, Holdsworth will be joined on stage by drummer Chad Wackerman, bassist Jimmy Johnson, and keyboardist Billy Childs (formerly with saxman Freddie Hubbard).
The first new CD is Snakes and Ladders, coming out on Steve Vai's Favored Nations label. What can you tell me about it?
I signed a deal with Steve around the time I got divorced and he never got his album. He's been unbelievably patient. The reason he hasn't bugged me is because he's a musician and understands that things can go wrong. Usually, a business-oriented record company guy would be beating down my door by this point.
Snakes and Ladders is an interesting record because it has two sets of people on it. Part of the album has Jimmy Johnson on bass and Gary Husband on drums. It also features another rhythm section I was touring with comprised of Ernest Tibbs on bass and Joel Taylor on drums. People have always asked me how different personnel change the music, and Snakes and Ladders really depicts that. There's one tune that appears in two different versions on the album, played by each set of players. It sounds completely different because of the way they interpret it. With Jimmy and Gary, the music is a bit more high energy and rock-oriented, and with Ernest and Joe, it's a little softer and goes into Sixteen Men of Tain territory. The record that comes after Snakes and Ladders will be another trio record, with Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Johnson, who I'm currently touring with.
Several musicians you've worked with who love your playing have said they can't understand why you're so hard on yourself since you blow them away all the time. Do you use that as a tool to push your creative limits?
Yes, I've done that a few times. Things can be hard because sometimes when I play something, it's going to have similarities to something I've done before. I try not to do the same things so it feels like I'm really improvising, but sometimes I catch myself and think “Geez, didn't I hear that somewhere else?” and I'll go and erase two or three tracks at a time. I did a lot of stuff for the guys in Planet X. I was supposed to play on everything on one of their albums, but in the end I only played on two tracks. I originally played on seven tracks, but I came back from the pub one night and played the stuff and hated it, so I erased it. The next morning, I thought I should listen to the original tracks again to see what I could do with them, but in my stupor, I had actually reformatted the drives and needed to get the material retransferred so I could start again. Unfortunately, I ended up not finishing the project. It's funny. Jimmy Johnson would sometimes come to my house and pay a visit just to make sure I wasn't erasing everything when we were working together. [laughs] I dunno. I always want things to be better and it never is in the end. You eventually just give up and go “Okay, I guess that's it.” Once a record is done, I never worry about it again. I'll slave over it for months and once I get to a certain point, I move on.
"To me, he's the ultimate bass player.."
That's how Allan Holdsworth describes Jimmy Johnson: "I can't think of anybody else on the planet I'd rather have play bass, because of the way he thinks and feels about the instrument. The way he defines the role in this band, and in anything I've ever heard him do, is just awesome. It's the function of the bass taken to the maximum, and I just love it. What else can I say?" What else indeed..?
He teamed up with Allan Holdsworth in 1985. It was an invitation to a rehearsal which led to him becoming a major element on Allan's album of that year, ‘Metal Fatigue', and Jimmy has featured on all subsequent albums - ‘Atavachron' (1986) ‘Sand' (1987) and ‘Secrets' (1989). In the touring spaces where he's not or recording with Holdsworth, Jimmy fills his time in other ways: "I'm not really a worker bee in L.A. - I do records, jingles and some film and TV stuff - but working with Allan is the total opposite of that; it's just get out there and blow'.
This tour is Jimmy's third visit to Europe. His previous visits included playing festivals with Lee Ritenour, who's albums, ‘Harlequin' (1985) ‘Earth Run' (1986) and ‘Color Rit' (1989) Jimmy can add to his very impressive list of credits. Jimmy enthuses: "I'm looking forward to this tour because I've never really seen England, and with the other guys it should be fun; you just never know what's going to happen, and that makes it interesting. It's just one of those bands. You're proud to come into a town and be playing with Allan Holdsworth; it's one of the few gigs like that and I'm really glad to be involved."
1"TO ME, HE'S the ultimate bass player. I can't think of anybody else on the planet I'd rather have play bass, just because of the way he thinks and feels about the instrument. The way he defines the role in this band, and in anything I've ever heard him do, is just awesome. It's the function of the bass taken to the maximum, and I just love it. What else can I say?"
The essence of this description by bandleader Allan Holdsworth - who's locked up at various points in time with a coterie of bassists ranging from Tony Newton to Alphonso Johnson, Jeff Berlin, Gary Willis and beyond - sits well upon the unassuming but eminently versatile Jimmy Johnson. Sublime soloist, unerring supporter and low-frequency foil to some of fusion's most unearthly excursions in recent memory, the Minneapolis-bred Johnson has held down the bottom for Holdsworth since 1985, when drummer Chad Wackerman's invitation to a rehearsal led to the bassist's becoming a key element of that years' acclaimed Metal Fatigue. Johnson's contributions to the guitarist's subsequent recordings - Atavachron, Sand and Secrets - became increasingly vital to Holdsworth's sound and direction.
Johnson's free-blowing, linear approach is also a calling card that has earned him entry to and sustenance in the highly competitive Los Angeles studio program. He expertly balances that work with his tours with Holdsworth and sessions with his transplanted hometown ensemble, Flim & The BB's. Their native Minneapolis, as clarinet-trained Johnson recalls it, proved a slightly more progressive environment for musical development than conventional wisdom would indicate.
"My dad [Cliff Johnson] is a bass player with the Minnesota Orchestra, and I started to play bass on the side when I was about eleven; my mom would sometimes write notes to the principal to get me out to do jingles," he laughs. "When I got done with high school I was already active enough on bass to the point where I could say, ‘Well, I'm working'
"Film & The BB's were kind of a studio rhythm section back then, doing commercials and some record albums," he continues. "At the time, 3M was working on inventing their digital recording machines. They would bring over these thrown-together things with all this breadboard circuitry in the backs of pickup trucks to the studio, Sound 80, and we would kinda just get together to play some music into this thing and see if it would record." Manning the board at many of these experiments was Tom Jung, who would eventually found the all digital label dmp and reassemble what he remembered as "that good test band" for several successful compact disc releases, including Neon, Tricycle and The Further Adventures of Flim and the BB's.
"It's nice, melodic music - not very dark," laughs Johnson of the commercially targeted, direct-to-disc projects, which, apart from isolated solo spots such as the demanding ostinato opening [to] Neon's "Fish Magic," require precious little of the fancy footwork held in reserve by the well-heeled bassist. "Actually, the liner notes on that one boast, ‘We don't overdub, we don't remix, blab blah blah.' Well, I've got to set something straight - I overdubbed that part. It's very embarrassing, But we have a good time anyway. It's such a different approach to jazz in terms of the recording techniques we use, but it's nice."
Quite literally at the other end of the sonic spectrum is Holdsworth's blissful analog mayhem, Although his soloing abilities are documented extensively throughout the catalogue - see Metal Fatigue's remarkably lyrical "Panic Station," Sand's frantic ‘4Pud Wud" or Secrets' sensitive. "54 Duncan Terrace" for the tip of the iceberg - it's with thick, five-string support that Johnson adds color, depth and melody to the foundation of Allan's provocative compositions.
"Bass players in general have a strange approach to what they're supposed to play," he observes. "It's actually a concept, and people don't realize that until they try for the first time to play a bass part and make it seem natural. It's actually kind of a weird way to think. If a guitar player tries to play a bass part, he'll find out that it's physically easy to do - playing the roots and stuff - but the actual approach is what's odd for people. I think that applies to Allan; his music is really rich harmonically, but it's kind of flexible with respect to which chord tone he wants to hear on the
very bottom. The chords are often complicated to the point where any of three or four different notes will work fine. So, instead of actually presenting me with a chart with the notes he wants on the bottom, we experiment with the parts and come up with them together. It's really fun. He has some specific ideas a lot of times; if there's a pedal point or something, he'll say it. But on a lot of the stuff, where the chords are going by in a hurry, we'll just sit down and figure out what works, and I'll try to write a bassline that leads and makes some melodic sense on its own."
According to Johnson, that same harmonic freedom is at work whether he's working through change-heavy tunes or building up from a simple pedal-tone framework. "The simple progressions are equally fun," he says. "That's a whole other deal. There you're talking about grooving and filling. I think Al wrote ‘Devil Take The Hindmost' to contrast all his tunes that have a lot of chords: ‘Try this one - Just go to G...for days!' So Chad and I tried to lay something down and get a little silly. I wish I'd gotten more silly new that I listen back to it. And harmonically, he just takes off on it. I can't exactly hang on to all of it, but he goes to Mars on the stuff."
The Holdsworth band's loose structure and erratic work agenda often dictates that such drummers as Wackerman, Gary Husband and Vinnie Colaiuta juggle the sticks amongst themselves to suit their own hectic recording schedules. Because Johnson remains a constant factor in the equation (he's managed to keep gigs that allow him to sub out when Allan needs him), he's developed a responsive sense for the music no matter which direction it's being pulled Between Chad's sharp, kinetic attack, Husband's lush, active approach and Colaiuta's remarkable hybrid of the two, the bassist truly has his job cut out for him.
As an accompanist, Johnson prefers a keyboard's support. "It's really tricky playing a trio with Al, because when he starts to take a solo, I wish I could be comping as cool as he comps. I can't do it. Jeff Berlin can play a lot of voicings, but I'm more of a one-note-at-a-time guy. It's actually more fun for me because I don't have to systematically think it out; I can play the bass note, hear the chord and then take it from there.
"I feel like I want to be on the bottom," he elaborates. "I usually end up down there. I think I think linear because of my clarinet training; that's a melody instrument if ever there was one, and I think a lot of that actually transferred over, whether I knew it or not. Soloing, that's where that comes from. I'm not really trained enough to know which scales are supposed to fit where. People say, ‘Well, you're playing a half-demolished-something-or-other scale there,' and I say, ‘Really?' It's just by ear - I'm just' trying to play melodies that hold together. And in playing basslines, I guess some of that applies as well. I want to lead to the next note. If there's a little hole I'll jump in. I'll take a chance."
Two Alembic Series II five-strings afford Johnson the extended range necessary to wax adventurous without being abrasive. A devotee since 1976, he was one of the first bassists in L.A. to work with an extra string. He credits his discovery of the instrument to his father's symphony bass experience: "They usually have an extension on upright basses that goes down to low C. I was trying to figure out how to do that on electric, and my dad said, ‘Well, there's also five-string basses.' They were making them back then, but with a high C, and I preferred the bottom. I don't have a whole lot of desire to go higher than the bass can go."
His fretted and fretless (strung, respectively, with GHS Boomers and "an old set of Superwounds that never seems to die") are both stock except for a master volume control, although an instrument stolen from him after a show in Poughkeepsie was equipped with a quick-release tailpiece.
(Any information regarding this bass' whereabouts should be directed to these offices.) Their electronics include a separate power supply and a stereo option Johnson takes occasional advantage of, taking the pickups to tape in stereo and splitting them slightly to create a subtle spread.
For live applications, Johnson maintains two specialized rigs. The smaller one, for clubs like the Baked Potato, consists of a three-hundred-watt miniature switching Walter Woods head and two EV 12's. His larger rig, for, in his professional estimation, "more fun," revolves around several Yamaha PD2500 power amps and a Myers speaker system, using a subwoofer cabinet and two separate two-way cabinets with a horn and a 12 in each. "I thought I'd try a full-range keyboard rig," he explains. "I like the sound of direct bass because I'm used to hearing that in the studio." For legitimate sessions, Jimmy travels light, carrying Simon System active boxes, units he finds compatible with his Alembics' output.
And being tight and mobile for sessions sits easy, whether it's for a Lee Ritenour or David Benoit record, an out-of-the-blue call for some fretless swing work for Natalie Cole, dates for the upcoming George Massenburg-produced Flim & The BB's project, a TV film soundtrack or any one of the various jingle jobs Johnson tackles regularly. None of it, he feels, is as challenging - or as unpredictable - as any single moment with the maestro.
"We never know where he's going," he laughs, "but if he starts to go, we usually go too. It all flows out. Husband was the wildest for that. If Allan would start really wailing, he would start really walling and the whole band would just go to the moon. The Wayne Johnson Band was kind of like that, too. If I was feeling strong about playing some strange groove all of a sudden, I would just start, and then everybody would either take it or leave it - so we try to respond to what he's doing. Which, when he goes into doing Al, is some kind of a trick.
"I'm not really a super-mainstream workerbee out here," he continues. "I do records and jingles, and jingles are pretty painless because they go by really fast. I don't really do a lot of stuff that's super tedious. Some of the TV/film stuff is kind of like that, though; you'll have to count for eighty-five bars and then come in with a big low F, and hope that you counted right. It just consumes your brain. But Allan's thing is just the total opposite of any of that kind of work; it's just, ‘Get out there and blow.' You never know what's going to happen. And that makes it interesting. It's just one of those bands. You're proud to come into a town and be playing with Allan. It's one of the few gigs like that, and I'm really glad to be involved."
TCG: So what's going on, you just got back from Japan?
AH: Yeah, we did...I met and hooked up with this guy, Leonardo at Moonjune Records...
TCG: Oh yeah!
AH: Since hooked up with him, he's pretty much kept us busy. We did a tour... I'm actually working with two bands right now - my old band, with Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman. Then I've been doing this thing with a co-op band with Alan Pasqua, myself, Jimmy Haslip and Chad Wackerman. So we did an East Coast tour with my band, Chad and Jimmy Johnson, and then we just went to Japan with the other band, Alan Pasqua, Jimmy Haslip and Chad and were going to Europe with that same band, actually, next week.
TCG: Wow, I've heard great things about your band, with Jimmy Johnson as far as gigs and acceptance.
AH: It's been really great to hook up with Jimmy and Chad again, because like when Chad moved to Australia, he was kind of gone, you know, And I've been playing with a couple of other people who are also really great players like Dave Carpenter on bass, and Gary Novak, the guys who played on Sixteen Men Of Tain. We did some touring with that band, and then some stuff with Joel Taylor and Ernest Tibbs. But then I managed to hook up again, when Chad moved back to the states, with Chad and Jimmy again, so it's been really great.
Tell us about your two upcoming recordings.
I'd started a project with Gary Husband and Jimmy Johnson about five years ago that was supposed to be released on Gnarly Geezer before the label folded. I've got all the recordings from that session, along with additional tracks recorded with drummer Joel Taylor and bassist Ernest Tibbs a couple of years later, and the first album will feature a mixture of those four musicians. One interesting thing about the project is that one of the songs was recorded by both groups, and the versions turned out so differently that I want to include them both just to show how the musicians can radically change the music. I don't tell anyone what to play specifically. I just show them the compositions, and their interpretations are completely up to them. I think that's why some of the guys like to play with me. The second album will mostly be with Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman, and I'll release it myself, possibly also this year.
Guitar.com: Are you still playing with the trio that's on the record?
Allan Holdsworth: Since that recording, Gary Novak started working with Alanis Morrisette, so he's gone doing that. I'm playing with Dave Carpenter still but we've got Joel Taylor on drums. Joel's a really great musician. And it changes it again. Each guys brings something different. I'm also doing a tour of Europe with a different band -- Gary Husband and Jimmy Johnson. So that's going to be pretty different, too.
‘That's the way I've always felt about the guys in the band, or the guys I've played with, like Gary (Husband) and Jimmy (Johnson) and Steve Hunt. They're all such great musicians, and as far as I'm concerned they're right up there with the best guys in the world. The music is mostly improvised, and we play over reasonably complicated chord sequences. And I still think that in essence it's kinda jazz, even though we came up from different things.
"I don't know how the maestro puts up with me," whispers keyboardist Steve Hunt, on loan from Stanley Clarke's band and in a feverish composing and improvising dutymode for this project. "I just kind of schmutz around a bit, and then he comes in and does a real solo." Bass wizard Jimmy Johnson shakes his hung head as he listens to a second-take of his own section: lyrical, confident - and hopelessly unsatisfactory. He vows to "stay after school" to fix the mess.
Johnson, remembering the despair in Allan's face when he told the guitarist that he'd listened to a tape of Believe It on the drive down from L.A., obliges: "We'll change that!"
Jimmy Johnson is pleasantly surprised by what he's hearing over the playback monitors. The piece is "Joshua," a working track for the forthcoming Secrets, the portion a reference SynthAxe solo that begins very smoothly, very diatonically, with simple, ascending major-key phrases. Holdsworth is sitting at the board, tapping his foot nervously and shaking his head. Suddenly; the reedy lines begin twisting and winding their way outward, pushing and pulling at the confines of the progression. In a moment, order is restored and the solo continues along, undisturbed.
"That's the only bit, right there, man. The rest of it's horseshit."
Johnson is seeing the bigger picture; it's been a long four days. "You know, this is jazz, man, it's jazz."
"Yeah," smiles Holdsworth as he picks himself up and heads for the loo, "but they'll still never play it anyway"
GW: Not necessarily, although in the van you did say you really had to pull some stuff out from beyond to solo over the stuff the chaps recorded the other day. I assumed you were speaking metaphorically.
HOLDSWORTH: Well, I tried to, because the rest of the guys just played so great. I mean, they always do, but this time particularly I think the tracks that we ‘got are just great - Vinnie and Jimmy were just reaming on it, and I couldn't just putsy around on top of them.