Album Review: Allan Holdsworth – Leverkusen 2010

Allan Holdsworth

photo by Rainer Leigraf; photo courtesy of Manifesto Records

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Allan Holdsworth: Leverkusen 2010 (Manifesto Records)

This is the fifth and latest release in a continuing series of posthumous classic live recordings by British guitar master Allan Holdsworth. This CD/DVD package features the legendary jazz-fusion guitarist in a 2010 performance at the Leverkusen Jazztage Festival in Germany. Along with Chad Wackerman on drums and Ernest Tibbs on electric bass, the Holdsworth trio captivated and mesmerized throngs of loyal jazz and progressive music fans.

The totally original 10 song set consisted of all instrumental material that encompassed the guitar maestro’s vast career from the ‘70s to the present. The opener “Leave Them On” greeted the attentive audience, with a mid-tempo and ethereal lilt. The rhythm section provided a smooth pocket that was taut, but open. There was great interaction from the trio, with Holdsworth unleashing out-of-the-box soloing.

Allan Holdsworth – Leverkusen 2010

image courtesy of Manifesto Records

A band mainstay and nugget from Holdsworth’s days with the New Tony Williams Lifetime, “Fred,” followed in brisk fashion. This tune really swings and displays a modern bop feel that takes your breath away. Wackerman and Tibbs do a brilliant job holding down the fort, but on the original ‘70s recording of this tune electric pianist Alan Pasqua added an essential sparkle and harmonic nuance to the piece. The absence of keyboards is sorely missed here. But this is only a minor criticism.

“Water on the Brain” follows and is filled with tricky and choppy accents and meters. Intricate melodies, riffs and cross-referenced harmonies abound. In particular, Tibbs really stands out, with a stellar and fluid bass solo.

The medley of “Madame Vintage,” “Above and Beyond” and “The Things You Do (When You Haven’t Got Your Gun)” is a big sweeping cavalcade of sound. This material really spotlights the strength and versatility of this band as the music goes from ambient and oddly harmonic to cinematic, with interspersed legato shredding. They are at the peak of their powers—dynamically, systematically and empathetically.

Allan Holdsworth

photo by Rainer Leigraf; photo courtesy of Manifesto Records

“Material Real” is another tune that keeps that vibe going and leads into the Wackerman composition “The Fifth.” This is an open swinging affair that features swift drum accents, lucid bass solos and some of Holdsworth’s most beautiful chord accompaniment.

A concert staple from the British guitarist’s early ‘80s period is a cut called “Letters of Marque.” It’s a very animated, technically astute and rhythmically complex piece. Meters would shift seemingly at will and provided plenty of space for inspired and impassioned solos from Holdsworth and Tibbs. Wackerman locked in the groove as the soloists took each other to greater heights.

The set concluded with another gem from the guitarist’s days with drummer Tony Williams called “Proto-Cosmos.” The encore piece featured a vibrant, angular melodic head that swung in jagged and asymmetric phrases. Holdsworth blows over rapid-fire changes as modern bop and rock ‘n roll meet head on.

This is an exciting package featuring candid live photos, exceptional liner notes and an audio CD of the concert as well as a DVD of the same, with additional current interviews where Wackerman and Tibbs reflect on Leverkusen and working with the Holdsworth band.

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