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Alan Pasqua and Allan Holdsworth, Live at Yoshi’s Jazz Club

 

** Note: At the end of this page is a transcription accompaniment. Please scroll to the bottom, click to open, and then continue reading.
The DVD I chose to review for this month is one that I have been wanting to get my hands on for quite awhile.  One afternoon, while Youtube surfing and looking for good Allan Holdsworth material, I stumbled across a series of short clips featuring Alan Pasqua and Allan Holdsworth, live at Yoshi’s Jazz Club.  They were each about thirty seconds long and were all the proof I needed to know I must own this DVD.  Not to mention that the two Tony Williams Group alumni are joined by the great Chad Wackerman on drums and Jimmy Haslip on bass.I have to begin my review with a comment on the opening section of this DVD.  It is one of the cleverest title sequences I have ever seen.  It features sections of fast motion photography set in unison to blazing Allan Holdsworth solo lines.  Anybody who knows how fast Allan can play should know that this was a very challenging task.

The quartet starts the night off with a nice warm up tune, Chad Wackerman’s “The Fifth”.  Check out the polyrhythmic triplet fill Jimmy plays on the intro (Ex. 1).  The daunting task of first solo falls onto the shoulders of Jimmy Haslip.  He accepts the challenge and takes two energetic choruses (Ex. 2) before turning it over to Allan Holdsworth.  Allan is in peak form almost instantaneously; playing lines that seem physically impossible less than 5 minutes into the concert.

From the audience comes a yell, “we’re ready now” and the group launches into the Allan Holdsworth song “Looking Glass”.   This tune features a very challenging intro section, set in an odd combination of meters, which the whole group handles masterfully (Ex. 3).   Alan Pasqua is featured for the first time of the night.  It takes him some time to dial in the organ sound, but once he does, his playing jumps to another level.

The Holdsworth fans in the audience immediately recognize the drum setup into the next song.  It is a Holdsworth classic “Fred”, from the Tony Williams album “Believe It” and is my favorite song in the program. The groove is in full force with Jimmy and Chad really locking up under the airy melody played by the two Allans (Ex 4).  Alan Pasqua is really stretching out at this point in the concert.  I must admit, I had not heard much of Alan Pasqua’s playing prior to this review, but he is a pleasant surprise for me.  His spacious approach is in great contrast to Allan Holdsworth’s dizzying technique .  Jimmy sneaks in a slick fill before Allan Holdsworth plays one of the most absurdly great guitar solos I have ever heard.  The rest is pure classic fusion:  An insanely fast unison line (Ex 5), pause, and back in with the groove and melody, and of course, a short drum solo.

The next song is “It Must Be Jazz”, which is a clever name for what I assume is a free jazz improvisation (all members of the band are listed as composers), taking place at one of the country’s well known jazz clubs.  The song is basically in two parts.  The first half is a free improvisation over a shuffle feel.  Then there is another crazy unison lick (they love using these) and the second section, which takes on a very open, ballad-like feel.  Allan Holdsworth takes a great solo, starting with short melodic ideas and space, then building into his trademark shredding.

“Blues for Tony” is the next selection the band performs.  It was obviously written for Tony Williams, who was responsible for getting Allan and Alan together in his band “Lifetime”.  The song is, as its name implies, a 10 bar jazz blues, but set to a very hip and syncopated Tony Williams style groove (Ex. 6).  Chad takes his first extended solo of the night which is a great example of how to play an unaccompanied drum solo over this blues form.

The band then slows it back down for the Alan Pasqua composition “San Michele”.  Pasqua opens the tune with an extended piano solo.  I will mention here that throughout this DVD Alan Pasqua displays a great ability at effectively using many different keyboard sounds.  He uses everything from Rhodes, to organ, to distorted lead tones, to one of the best sounding acoustic piano keyboad patches I have ever heard.  The tune kicks in with a 70’s fusion six feel, with a medium driving backbeat, keyboard playing arpeggios and Allan Holdsworth playing the eastern sounding melody.  Chad is once again the last soloist and takes a very musical drum solo.

“Pud Wud”, another Holdsworth classic,  opens up with an extended guitar solo played unaccompanied by Allan; using a very cool volume swell effect.  His inventive use of chord voicings is the basis for the intro.  This is a perfect example of one of the greatest aspects of his playing.  The tune begins with another great bass fill from Jimmy Haslip, who then holds down the quasi caribbean feel.   Jimmy plays the first solo on “Pud Wud”.  This bass solo is full of his blazing pentatonic licks and soulful blues chops, as well as some very nice angular arpeggio runs.  Allan and Alan once again follow with equally impressive solos.

I was very excited to check out the next tune “Protocosmos”.  This is one of my favorite tunes to play with my group and I always enjoy checking out new versions, especially if it features Allan Holdsworth (he always plays great on this song) and the composer, Alan Pasqua.  Not to mention the original drummer I associate with this song, which for me is not Tony Williams but Chad Wackerman.  Jimmy and Chad do a great job of holding down the groove while Holdsworth and Pasqua both solo brilliantly. (Ex 7).

The night closes out with another improvised piece entitled, “Red Alert”.  It is a blast to watch these four musicians interact on this cut.  Alan Pasqua is like a mad scientist behind the keyboards right from the start of this number.  Allan Holdsworth takes another jaw dropping solo to finish the night.  It is amazing to watch Allan play the guitar.  His playing is nearly flawless and seems effortless.  It is really a pleasure to watch such great players interact at such a high musical level.

The production quality of this DVD truly deserves mention.  The entire concert was shot in HD.  The sound is studio quality and the mix is superb.  The camera angles were a little rapidly changing at points but are always coordinated with the soloists.  I don’t think I have ever seen production this good on a jazz DVD.  The only flaw with a production of this quality is that the little things stand out more.  For instance, somebody (I think it is Jimmy bass) is not grounded, so the buzz is going through the signal to the recording and is audible throughout the whole concert.

The packaging is great and the liner notes are top quality.  The menus are easy to navigate and the overall presentation is perfect.  The DVD can be found at and is solely distributed by www.altitudedigital.com.  It is a little on the pricey side for a DVD of this length but, I must say, it is worth every cent.  So if you are a fan of any of the four musicians that appear on this DVD or just a fan of great jazz/fusion, then pick up this wonderful DVD.  You will not be disappointed.

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