Allan Holdsworth – Backstage at Iridium Jazz Club (Part 1)

Allan Holdsworth onstage at Iridium Jazz Club NYC April 25


Just three blocks north of Times Square in Manhattan, you’ll find the world-famous Iridium Jazz Club (51st Street and Broadway). Featuring a perfect blend of the top established names in jazz and the most talented up and coming musicians, Iridium is the perfect place to celebrate and support live music. If you’re in the vicinity, unplug your earbuds and check out Iridium’s stellar lineup of upcoming concerts.

Nearly every professional and amateur guitarist in the vicinity of Manhattan packed into Iridium this past weekend to catch the legendary British guitarist, Allan Holdsworth in concert with his trio. was lucky enough to squeeze into the Saturday night concert and to catch up with Allan (a surprisingly humble and soft-spoken man) for our BACKSTAGE AT IRIDIUM series. That was an amazing set … is that your regular trio these days?

Allan Holdsworth: Well, the usual trio is Chad Wackerman on drums and Jimmy Johnson on bass. Jimmy often tours with James Taylor as well, so sometimes we get a conflict. I’ve played with Ernest Tibbs, who is the bassist with me at Iridium, for quite a few years with a different drummer. But my current regular trio is usually Jimmy Johnson, Chad Wackerman and myself. On your album None Too Soon, you bring your own distinctive style to the Django Reinhardt tune, “Nuages.” What, if any, kind of an influence was Django on you as a young boy?

Allan Holdsworth: He had a huge influence on me. The two main guitar players were Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian – because my Dad was a jazz musician – a really fine piano player – and he had a lot of records lying around… and so those were the first two guitar players that I heard. Yeah, Django was amazing…. absolutely amazing. Who was your first guitar teacher?

Allan Holdsworth: I never actually took lessons, formally, from a guitar player, but my Dad actually became quite proficient on guitar over the years. He just understood how it was tuned. He knew where the notes were and everything… so it actually helped me because I didn’t learn a lot of “guitaristic” things. In fact, it kind of… a lot of the chords he would show me were a lot like piano voicings, so they were a little bit different. I’m glad about that, actually. (laughs) Is that lack of boundary something that perhaps led you to your involvement with developing and creating new guitar technology and sound capabilities?

Allan Holdsworth: Perhaps…maybe so, but I think mostly it was because I really wanted to play the saxophone. And… but at that time, you know, my parents weren’t very wealthy or anything, so they couldn’t afford to buy me a saxophone. But my uncle had a guitar lying around, so my Dad bought it for me and I really didn’t have much interest in it in the beginning. I just, like, used to stand in front of the mirror with it (laughs). But then, slowly, I just started to get a little bit of an interest in it and as soon as my Dad saw that I was trying to learn stuff on it, then he started buying me all these books and he really, really focused on me then… tried to help me. Where did you grow up?

Allan Holdsworth: Bradford, Yorkshire England. You once said that the early 1970′s were a bit of a feast or famine time for you… so many musicians – even famous ones like you – go through those difficult financial and professional periods. What brought you through those hard times and kept you from giving up?

Allan Holdsworth: Just love of music and persistence. I mean, you’ve just got to keep going, you know, just keep trying. You’ve got to take a day job once in a while – but it’s ok (laughs). And what kind of day jobs did you have?

Allan Holdsworth: (laughs) Oh, I had some crazy ones! I was a basket maker for a while. I actually enjoyed that job a lot. I worked in a lot of mills in Yorkshire – they were really terrible jobs (laughs). One of them, I had to stand inside of a…. well, like a bale, while the other guys threw the wool in and I’m supposed to compress it by jumping up and down… (laughs) crazy jobs. When your name is mentioned to a group of musicians – often a highly critical crowd – their faces light up and they usually refer to you as a “virtuoso.” How does it make you feel to be such a favorite among your fellow musicians?

Allan Holdsworth: Well, it’s kind of flattering and embarrassing at the same time (laughs). I guess I don’t think about it too much… And the term “virtuosity…”

Allan Holdsworth: Well, Paganini comes to mind (laughs)… but, no, not where I’m concerned…

Be sure to check out Part 2 of our interview with Allan Holdsworth.

Learn More:

Allan Holdsworth Official Site

Iridium Jazz Club Official Site