Monday, July 17, 2017

Allan Holdsworth - 2002 "All Night Wrong"

All Night Wrong is the first official live album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth, released in 2002 through Sony Music Entertainment Japan and in 2003 through Favored Nations Entertainment (United States).

Guitar hero Allan Holdsworth often performs with his peers. Such is the case with this live setting recorded at a venue in Japan during a 2002 tour. On this release, the guitarist leads a trio featuring longtime musical associates, drummer Chad Wackerman, and bassist Jimmy Johnson. To that end, the respective musicians' talents are well-known entities. Wackerman and Johnson can handle the trickiest time signatures imaginable. Along with the nimble flexibilities and odd-metered excursions witnessed here, they exude a force of power that serves as a meaty foundation for Holdsworth's mighty licks.
A wonderfully recorded album, Holdsworth's climactically driven legato-based riffs are intact, as he also implements jazzy chord voicings and delicately stated fabrics of sound. But the trio raises the ante throughout many of these pieces, awash with moments of nuance and controlled firepower. In sum, Holdsworth's legion of followers should be pleased with a recording that should rank among his finest efforts to date.

Incredibly, All Night Wrong (Favored Nations) is Allan Holdsworth’s first “official” live album, made at the Roppongi Pit Inn in Japan in May 2002, with two longtime collaborators, former Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman and bassist Jimmy Johnson. Holdsworth’s guitar improvisations are about as complex as they get without flying over your head completely. Holdsworth, as is well known, is a guitarist’s guitarist who doesn’t consider himself a jazz player yet whose music can barely be called rock. Virtually cliche-free, Holdsworth isn’t someone you can categorize; listen to “Alphrazallan” for evidence of this. His uncompromising music doesn’t come to you; you have to go to it. Holdsworth’s intensely focused, fearsomely long solos make their point by cramming more notes into the square inch than you might think is humanly possible, such as on “Funnels,” and with Wackerman’s fill-every-crack drumming, it can make for exhausting listening. Usually at one dynamic level, it’s like being trapped in a conversation where you can’t get a word in edgeways.

The title may offer insight into guitar legend Holdsworth's notorious aversion to the pressures of live recordings; indeed, this marks the first live solo album of his long career. But the nigh-flawless performances here (recorded in May, 2002 at the Roppongi Pit Inn in Tokyo, Japan) also suggest a certain irony to the fusion pioneer's concerns. His distinctive chordal melodic technique sets "Lanyard Loop" (and much of the album) in a quietly savory orbit; but it's a deceptively languorous framework that Holdsworth masterfully uses to contrast his often-aggressive soloing. "The Things You See" showcases some remarkably fluid tonal shifts and a solo tack that's as free and Coltrane-esque as advertised. The soft focus of "Alphrazallan" proves it can also be a tightrope walk, while drummer Chad Wackerman's playful, funk-edged solo introduction gives the dark, cascading mystery of the guitarist's playing on "Zone" yet another compelling facet, with bassist Jimmy Johnson capably adding yet another layer of rhythmic complexity. The jazzy, neo-swing of "Water on the Brain, Pt. II" and "Gas Lamp Blues" (where Johnson in particular shines) displays the trio's forceful, economic interplay to good effect, and one that stands in dramatic contrast to the dreamy soundscape "Above & Below." Fusion remains an underappreciated musical language, but this is a fine live showcase for one of its master linguists.

Track listing:
All tracks written by Allan Holdsworth, except where noted.

1. "Lanyard Loop" 5:46
2. "The Things You See" 6:53
3. "Alphrazallan" 7:04
4. "Funnels" 5:01
5. "Zone" (Holdsworth, Steve Hunt, Gary Husband, Jimmy Johnson) 9:19
6. "Water on the Brain Pt.II" 5:30
7. "Above & Below" 8:21
8. "Gas Lamp Blues" 7:59
Total length: 55:53

Personnel:

Allan Holdsworth – guitar
Chad Wackerman – drums
Jimmy Johnson – bass

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