Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Who? Where?

Allan Holdsworth is playing in the little town where I grew up.

Anyone out there give a shit about Allan Holdsworth? It seems like he's someone you either love or hate. Most of my friends hate his music. They hear that clean, chorus tone and they just bug.

Once upon a time, my friend Rich played in a "country rock" type outfit. The group would perform at the same geographic location where Allan Holdsworth will be performing. As you can imagine, the venue has changed significantly in the last several years.

If I have the story correct, the leader of said "country rock" band gave Rich the specific instruction that he was not to play any of those "Allan Holdsworth faggot chords"--meaning any chords containing an interval of a 7th, 9th, 11th, or 13th.

I sent an e-mail to Rich asking if he was going. The initial response was that he hadn't heard about it. How is it that I, over 3000 miles away heard about it and he, 30 miles away didn't? What the hell is that all about? The second E-mail said he got tickets and he is going to see the performance with a mutual friend who, like Rich and I, knew and played music (albeit in varying degrees and differing capacities) with Jon Van Wie.

I used to take guitar lessons from Jon when I was wee tot. I took those lessons in the same town where I grew up and where Allan Holdsworth will be performing. In so doing, I learned early that Jon was as great a man and as consummate and bitchin' a musician as any who have ever walked this earth. Jon had a superhuman facility with his hands, as well as an equally super human ability to memorize. A wonderful guitar player. A motherfucker of a guitar player. How motherfucking? Memorizing guitar solos by Allan Holdsworth on the record Metal Fatigue. He also had Pat Martino's solo from "Sonny" memorized. As well as the Eddie Van Halen canon. And the Steve Vai canon (up to Eat Em And Smile.) And there he was, teaching guitar in the basement of the music store.

(To give you a sense of context, Jon and Steve Vai were at Berklee at the same time.)

Were that not all enough, Jon went on to be a consummate and bitchin' mouthpiece maker/reface-er. He worked for a lot of people. Taking a census of all his clients would be a sprawling, star studded project.

I have two of his mouthpieces, one of which still works. The other got dropped on a cement floor and broke. I can remember that day as if it happened moments ago. Thankfully when I remember that episode, I no longer crap my pants and start crying as I did for so long. Losing that mouthpiece was like losing Jon all over again. I replaced it with a Berg Larsen. While it's no Jon Van Wie, I am quite pleased with it.

Jon also made me a metal mouthpiece. I tried and I tried and I tried, but I just couldn't do it. For some reason, I can't play metal mouthpieces (any more.) I don't know why--I used to have a Lawton and a Sugal and a Rovner (I think) and they were all metal, and I liked them just fine. But this one was just too much to handle--something about the finish on the brass. It put my teeth on edge and made me feel like I was putting an unfair strain on my liver.

I sent it back to him on the understanding that he would make me a(nother) hard rubber one. He sold that metal mouthpiece to David Liebman. Shortly there after Jon Van Wie passed away.

I wrote David Liebman and asked him if I could purchase the mouthpiece back from him, regardless of price, as said mouthpiece means more to me than it could ever possibly mean to David Liebman, so on and so forth.

His reply was that he was keeping it as a "spare."

And that was the end of that.

+ + +

There is a lot to like about Allan Holdsworth, or there was back in the late 80's and early 90's. I've heard some more recent things of his on the interweb and they certainly still have the same appeal. That appeal (for me) is his sui generis concept of harmony, followed closely by his ability to nimbly realize those concepts. Who doesn't love a lot of notes going by really quickly? What's great about Allan Holdsworth is that for the most part, none of those notes repeat. What's not to like about run-on sentences of notes played from one end of the guitar to the other really quickly?

With Holdsworth, more than any other "fusion" artist I can think of, my sorrow is that he never collaborated with the "free" drummers. Who wouldn't want to hear a trio with Allan Holdsworth, Rashid Bakr and William Parker? How far of a stretch is it from Cecil Taylor to Allan Holdsworth? Yes, yes, quite a distance, I know--but they're closer than most. Closer than Axel Rose and Cecil Taylor, for one. Regardless, I'd go out of my way to check Allan Holdsworth with Rashid Bakr and William Parker out. Wouldn't you?

That's not to say he's surrounded himself with losers. For a while there he was playing with Chad Wackerman. Is that who he's touring with now?

From Frank Zappa to Allan Holdsworth. What must it be like to be Chad Wackerman? Even if you don't give a shit about Frank Zappa or Allan Holdsworth you have to admit, Chad Wackerman has had some unique experiences in music. If "unique" means anything anymore, the Holdsworth/Wackerman axis certainly seems auspicious on paper--though I cannot lay claim to having ever actually really listened to any of their collaborative work for actual-real.

(Pass the pulitzer.)

Nevertheless, the story is as much about the little town where I grew up, as it is about Allan Holdsworth. I think the last gig as atomic as this one was when Bush I flew in to "Vets field" for a rally. I remember seeing a spattering of Marines "securing the perimeter". That was pretty creepy. I also remember many of the girls at school were really really excited!!! That was totally creepy.

Then, the town was a 98% Republican community. Now I would imagine that number is somewhere near 99.993%. Then again, now that it doesn't matter, his (Bush II's) popularity could have slipped somewhere around 96.66% Because really, who doesn't like to kick someone when they're down?

Do Republicans like Allan Holdsworth? Is that the Allan Holdsworth demographic--republicans living in suburban New Jersey?

Does anything make sense anymore?

copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa