IT WAS WITH heavy heart I heard the news that Allan Holdsworth had died. Even though his work should have been way too complex for my meagre mind, its genuine depth and beauty found an instant connection. I got to know Allan a little, too, when I worked for SynthAxe in the ’80s and he was our primary ambassador. Two great Holdsworth stories spring to mind.
One was our first trip to NAMM in Anaheim. It was January ’86 and guitar synths were the talk of the show. Our first demo was 10.30am and we (inventor Bill Aitken playing huge synth pads on an Oberheim Matrix 12 and I doing licks using Yamaha DX-7 and Oberheim Xpander) began to set up. Dread quickly flooded my every pore as the audience drifted in. All the top players had come to see what the fuss was all about, and not six feet from me stood Stanley Jordan, Lee Ritenour, and... Allan. It had not crossed my mind that this might happen. Do I resign and get the next plane home? Or just front it? I fronted it, and we went down a storm (we had a Linn drum too and it was all going through huge EV speakers and a £4000 AMS reverb! Allan said some sweet things too, and I’ll never forget that. The other time was later that same year at Summer NAMM. The SynthAxe team was having dinner at an Indian restaurant in Chicago and I was seated next to Allan. “How come you can play literally any note and it sounds great?” I asked. “Well,” he began: “Each scale has 7 notes and from each of those you can build another scale; and from each note of those scales you can build another 7, etc. So, in any key, any note you play is ‘correct’.” He never uttered the word ‘modes’. He just didn’t think in those terms. Enjoy our feature and the tributes from so many of his ‘name player’ devotees. See you next time.
Neville Marten, Editor