Distinguished jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth has died unexpectedly at the age of 70. “It is with heavy hearts that we notify everyone of the passing of our beloved father Allan Holdsworth. We would appreciate privacy and time while we grieve the loss of our dad, grandad, friend and musical genius. We will update close friends and family when service arrangements have been made and will notify the public of an open memorial service, which all would be welcome. We are undeniably still in shock with his unexpected death and cannot begin to put into words the overwhelming sadness we are experiencing. He is missed tremendously,” his family stated on social media.
Known for his mind-blowing playing, Holdsworth influenced scores of musicians throughout his decades long career, including: John Frusciante, Eddie Van Halen, Greg Howe, Eric Johnson, Richie Kotzen, Alex Lifeson, Yngwie Malmsteen, John McLaughlin, Tom Morello, John Petrucci, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai.
“Allan plays legato parts like a violinist. His right hand might as well be a bow, because his left hand is like Paganini’s. You can call his playing whatever you want to, but it will still fry your brain if you try to figure it out,” Carlos Santana once said of Holdsworth. “John McLaughlin, Michael Stern, John Scofield – all of us just scratch our heads and go, ‘Damn!’” With an extensive back catalog, Holdsworth first rose onto the scene in 1969 with the release of ‘‘Igginbottom’s Wrench’ as member of prog-rock band ‘Igginbottom. He joined improvisational band, Sunhip, along with future King Crimson drummer Jamie Muir, who only played live, never to have a studio release, and joined bands such as Nucleus and Tempest. He played with Soft Machine, The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, and Jean-Luc Ponty during the ‘70s. While in 1978, Yes drummer, Bill Bruford, asked Holdsworth to play on his debut album, ‘Feels Good To Me’, afterwards adding him to his newly formed progressive rock band U.K. (whose members included Eddie Jobson and John Whetton). Holdsworth ‘left’ the band after their self titled debut. After collaborating with jazz pianist Gordon Beck on 1979’s ‘Sunbird’, they jointly released ‘The Things You See’ in 1980, which was just the beginning of the jam-packed decade that was the 80s for Holdsworth. He formed the band IOU with Gary Husband, Paul Carmichael, and former Tempest singer Paul Williams, and their 1982 self titled debut was released to critical acclaim, with guitarist Eddie Van Halen bubbling about him to magazines on numerous occasions. 1983’s ‘Road Games’ received a 1984 Grammy Awards nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and ‘86’s ‘Atavachron’ was the first to feature Holdsworth’s playing of the SynthAxe (an uncommon MIDI controller). Holdsworth’s list of work goes on and on, yet wasn’t widely known, with most referring to him as someone only technical musicians were guaranteed to know. “If you’re any type of musician you have a duty to listen, understand and let your mind be blown away by Allan Holdsworth’s work because his music isn’t just about guitar playing, it’s so much more. It would be like saying that Coltrane’s music is about sax playing or that Monk was just about the piano. Listening to Allan will inevitably help develop anyone’s musicianship,” guitarist Alex Masi stated.
You can check out some of Holdsworth’s unbelievable playing down below.