Allan would play on a total of three albums by Ponty: "Enigmatic Ocean", "Individual Choice" and "The Atacama Experience".
Over the next few years Holdsworth recorded on several albums, including drummer Bill Bruford’s first solo LP Feels Good To Me, and Jean-Luc Ponty’s Enigmatic Ocean. By this point touted primarily as a soloist, Holdsworth found himself trapped into a one-dimensional mode, feeling he had more to offer than just flashy embellishment to other people’s songs.
In 1977 I joined Gong which was a potentially interesting writing situation, but they could never stop arguing long enough to orgnaise (sic) anything. We toured a little and then I left. Later that year I played on an album with Jean-Luc Ponty - ‘Enigmatic Ocean. In 1978 I played on Bill Bruford’s solo albums ‘Feels Good To Me’ and ‘One Of A Kind’. I joined U.K. in ‘78 which consisted of Bill, John Wetton, Eddie Jobson and myself, one album there. In 1979 I went to Paris with the new trio, and here we are two years later about to make another album. Ultimately I’d like the band to do a couple of albums and establish in the USA: I’m sure we’ll have more success over there.
No Record Contract, No Big Hoopla, But The Fans Have Kept The Faith For Allan Holdsworth (Guitar World 1982)
"I loved playing with Tony Williams. I loved playing with Jean-Luc Ponty. All of Ponty’s albums were done pretty much live - as far as I can remember they all were. Live, with everybody playing together, as opposed to people playing off on their own. The UK album was done one guy at a time. What I mean by live is that we played together in the studio rather than in different months!"
So that was an accident, and after that Gong; that stopped existing as the band fell apart, so that wasn’t my fault. And than Jean-Luc Ponty; even before I started playing with him I had agreed with Bill (Bruford) that I would co-operate on his solo-project, so after I had finished with Jean-Luc I had to go again to work with Bill.
Bill: Speaking of violin, I saw Jean-Luc Ponty recently. He was doing a trio gig at Carnegie Hall with Stanley Clarke and Bela Fleck.
Bill: It was really good, and it provided a vehicle for Jean-Luc to play more classically oriented than I had ever heard him play before. It was an electrified violin but he didn’t use effects and he was dealing more with virtuosic chamber kind of stuff.
Allan: Yeah, I really love his playing. He’s an incredible musician.
Bill: Have you been in touch with him?
Allan: No I haven’t been, actually. Last time I spoke to him was about four years ago. We were supposed to hook up with him one time when I was in Paris but we never did. But yeah, I really like Jean-Luc as a guy as well as a musician. Pretty incredible player.
Bill: I hadn’t seen him in a long time and he looked exactly the same as he did 20 years ago. Hadn’t gained a pound. I’m amazed by these people who remain eternally youthful looking.
Allan: Huh, I’ve got a few jowls going myself. Ha-ha.
Bill: That record you guys did, Enigmatic Ocean (Atlantic, 1975) is a fusion classic. It was interesting to hear two guitars on that record, you and Daryl Stuermer (who later played with Genesis and for the past 20 years has been in the Phil Collins band). Two very different approaches to the instrument -- you with that flowing hammer-on legato thing and Daryl machine gun-picking every note.
Allan: Oh yeah, that was a nice contrast. I enjoyed that.
You recently hooked up with Jean-Luc Ponty for his Acatama Experience CD. What was it like to work with him again?
It was great. I’ve always been a big fan and love his playing. He’s a sweet guy and he plays like he is. He called one day and asked if I’d be interested in playing on a track on his new album and I said “Sure.” He’s in Paris, so he sent a file over and I played the solo and sent it back in the mail. It’s funny to say “The solo’s in the mail” but that’s how we did it. [laughs] It’s a nice track and I’d like to do more with him. The whole record was pretty much done, so he just wanted a guitar solo for the one tune.
When you played in Ponty’s band, it was one of the rare occasions you shared the stage with another guitarist—in this case, with Daryl Stuermer. What was it like to share the lead guitar role?
It was alright. We’re radically different, so it never turned into a war. A lot of times when you get two guitarists together it’s like dueling banjos.
Stuermer told me he would watch you in awe and that it was a tremendous learning experience for him.
I was doing the same thing with him. I really thought Daryl was great. I had seen him play as part of Jean-Luc’s band prior to my joining. It was a lot of fun to work with him. The fact that we’re so dissimilar made it work together quite well.
R.V.B. - In the late 70’s you hooked up with guys like Jean Luc Ponty and Tony Williams. Things are starting to happen now. Was that a natural process to lead you to finally going out on your own and leading your own project?
A.H. - I loved working with Jean Luc and I loved working with Tony Williams. I got to a point where I just wanted to play my own music. It was a logical step to form a group of my own with Gary Husband and Paul Carmichael. We did that for a while and then I left the UK. I worked with Bill Bruford, which was great.
Was it your time with Jean-Luc Ponty that sparked your interest in playing the violin?
Oh no, no, it was just curiosity. I messed around with a lot of instruments; I played clarinet for awhile. I had borrowed saxophones from band mates in the past, just to get a feeling of how they work and the challenges of each; and it was like that with the violin. I got a violin, and then after that I did buy a viola. But the viola got lost in the shuffle when I moved; I don’t really know what happened to it.
In the years that you worked with Jean-Luc Ponty – because he was essentially the lead instrumentalist – did you have to ease back on some of what you were doing to leave space for him?
Jean-Luc was great to work for; he left me alone pretty much as well. He didn’t give me any instructions. I liked the music, and I totally enjoyed playing with him.
BAM: How was it playing with Ponty?
AH: I really enjoyed working with him. I think he enjoyed it too. We'd do lines in harmony. Or, he and I would play in unison and his other guitar player would play the harmony. We really enhanced each other's sound.
BAM: Were you able to interject a lot of your musical personality into most of the sessions you've done?
AH: I tried to make my playing a part of the whole thing. And I would be allowed to do whatever I wanted with my solo section. But I didn't usually affect anything else that much. I was just thought of as somebody to fill up the space.