The Age (1995)
Guitar Ace Holdsworthplaying At The Edge LEON GETTLER 496 words 15 May 1995 The Age AGEE 20 English
IF ALLAN HOLDSWORTH wasn't building on his unique electronic jazz-rock sound, he'd probably be brewing boutique beer. The guitarist who left London for Southern California in 1982 says about the only thing he misses about England is the beer. And he has solved that problem by importing some English beer pumps to his house in San Diego.
``If all of a sudden what I was doing ended up being the mainstream, then I'd realise I couldn't be searching any more, he said. ``I guess that would be a sure sign of imminent retirement. If I felt I got to a point where I couldn't learn anything or couldn't improve, then that would definitely be a time to take a job in a brewery.
It is said many musicians never look at a guitar the same way after hearing Holdsworth. As a musician, producer and composer, he defies conventions, exploring guitar-inspired synths like the synthaxe and producing modified scale baritone, doubleneck and piccolo guitars. He has also developed and designed electronic sound equipment, like the ``Juice Extractor.
In the 1970s, he worked with the likes of Soft Machine, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and a version of drumming legend Tony Williams's exciting jazz-rock band Lifetime. He switched to progressive rock in the late 1970s before returning to more jazz-oriented ventures.
The line-ups on his more recent albums, Wardenclyffe Tower, Secrets and Hard Hat Area, include Chad Wackerman (ex-Frank Zappa, Men At Work), keyboardist Steve Hunt (Billy Cobham and Stanley Clarke) and Icelandic bass player Sculi Sverisson. They are with him on his third Australian tour.
Holdsworth, who picked up the guitar when he was 17, says he was more attracted to the saxophone during his childhood, when he would spend hours listening to his musician father's jazz records. At times, the range and fluidity of his music does not sound anything like a guitar's. Significantly, he includes John Coltrane among his earlier influences, along with guitar luminaries Charlie Christian, Joe Pass and Jimmy Raney.
Like his father who gave up playing in pubs because he was sick of taking requests from the drinkers who wanted him to play Daisy, when all he wanted to do was improvise Holdsworth says he would rather quit than compromise.
A lot of jazz now is concerned with reproducing great sounds from the past, playing safe instead of being creative and dangerous, Holdsworth says. ``These guys now would study Charlie Parker and play a pretty good impersonation, but there's no fire in it any more. The true importance of that music back then is what they were saying at the time they did it.
``The music that matters in each point in time is never `okay'. It's always on the edge.
Allan Holdsworth will perform at The Continental Cafe, Greville Street, Prahran, on Tuesday and Wednesday.