Blues for Tony
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When drummer Tony Williams died of a heart attack on February 23, 1997, at the relatively young age of 51, it was a tremendous loss for straight-ahead post-bop and hard bop as well as for fusion. Williams had numerous acoustic jazz credentials (including his contributions to Miles Davis' legendary mid-‘60s quintet), and his band Lifetime was one of the most important fusion outfits of the ‘70s. The late drummer's fusion side is what electric guitarist Allan Holdsworth, electric bassist Jimmy Haslip (of Yellowjackets fame), keyboardist Alan Pasqua, and drummer Chad Wackerman pay tribute to on Blues for Tony, an excellent two-CD set that was recorded live in 2007. Forming a quartet, the improvisers remember Williams not by trying to sound like a carbon copy of Lifetime, but rather by celebrating the overall spirit of Williams' fusion output. Holdsworth, in fact, worked with Williams when he replaced John McLaughlin as Lifetime's guitarist in 1975; it was a brief association (Holdsworth left Lifetime the following year), although certainly a noteworthy one. And like Lifetime, this quartet (which performs mostly material by Holdsworth and Pasqua) demonstrates that being influenced by rock and funk and making extensive use of electric instruments doesn't mean that a group cannot maintain a jazz mentality. In fact, Blues for Tony thrives on a jazz mentality. Improvisation and spontaneity prevail, and even though Blues for Tony is by no means straight-ahead acoustic jazz, the quartet's amplified performances can easily be described as "the sound of surprise" (to borrow a term coined by the late jazz critic Whitney Balliett). These performances underscore the fact that — contrary to what myopic jazz purists and bop snobs would have us believe — fusion is not pseudo-jazz. Fusion is authentic jazz, but it's authentic jazz for people who also appreciate rock and funk. Blues for Tony is an album that fusion lovers shouldn't miss.
The best Holdsworth album by far, and I've been steeped in his music since 1975. Alan Pasqua just rips this up and Holdsworth just kills - his tone, power, and virtuosity are like no one else on the planet. The recording quality is so transparent that everyone's parts shine through beautifully. Just buy it! And remember the old adage: Holdsworth Rules, Satriani drools.
Jazz Fusion Explorations
I was actually at a concert where I saw these guys play all this stuff. I tell you, it was AMAZING! These guys are all such virtuosic musicians, and when they come together in one amazing jazz-fusion band, you just know it's gonna be awesome. And from the beginning piano line of the opening song, you can tell how good the album will be. BUY IT!
A really fine album, great line up, great songs
For rabid Allan Holdsworth devotees, this is a slightly different album. Not dramatically different, but the inclusion of Jimmy Haslip and Alan Pasqua makes for a different tone set, different soloing styles, different song offerings than the usual Holdsworth album. I am a longtime Holdsworth fanatic. This is a very interesting album in my estimation. Great production, everyone sounds great! Great performances abound, and the impetus for the album is very thoughtful and appropriate as well (A tribute to the late, great, Tony Williams, ground breaking and innovative fusion percussion stylist). Chad Wackerman, who regularly tours with Holdsworth, sounds invigorated and fresh, as well as his usual masterful playing. All the players on this album seemed to be inspired and invigorated working in this somewhat different outting. If you are a fusion fan, or a Holdsworth fan, this should be an interesting and provocative album for you. The songs are interesting vehicles for this group of soloists, and all leave their own unique stamp on each song. Pasqua and Holdsworth seem to blend well, and each seems to provide the project with a wealth of different tones, approaches, and incendiary soloing. This is also a unique opportunity to hear Jimmy Haslip step out a bit more than in usual recordings. Haslip is solid, inspired, and I was personally a bit surprised how readily and well he fit in this slightly higher profile/octane style of performance. Definitely a must have for the devoted Holdsworth listener!
Born: August 6, 1946 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s
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