None Too Soon (album)

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Allan sometimes referred to this as a Gordon Beck album with himself guesting on it. That’s because Gordon did all the arrangements, picked tunes and wrote the title track. Allan still leaves his mark, such as on Coltrane’s “Countdown”, with a chordal arrangement. This listener always liked “Nuages” and the two Joe Henderson tunes the best. Kirk Covington and Gary Willis play on all tracks.

Creating Imaginary Backdrops (Innerviews 1993)

Last time I spoke to you, I suggested you finish up your Restless contract with a live album so you wouldn’t have to waste any new compositions on them. But you said it was too valuable.

Yeah, there was another album as well. Two concepts. One that I had started working on with Gordon Beck—an English jazz piano player. It’s an album of old standards. But I was going to hold back on that because it seems, by coincidence, everybody in the whole world is doing an album of standards! [laughs] So we decided to hold off on that one. And it might be something that might help Restless more than they’ve been helping me. I thought it might be better for me and the musicians involved to not give that one to them, and give it to a Japanese company —someone that’s more interested in a specialized product thing.

Allan Holdsworth: An interview (Atavachron 1994)

CH: Actually, I had this question, and I was going to raise this anyway. We we’re talking earlier about the next project as being potentially something more in a straight-ahead jazz vein. Your next album’s going to be a departure, I understand. Can you tell us anything about this at this point?

AH: Well, I mean that’s all I can tell you, is that I’d like it to be that. You know, I’d like to do that. The thing is that, it may show me out to be a total idiot. I mean, I have no idea. All I know is that the music that I play, I feel is actually akin to jazz. You know, as chord changes, and we play over the chord changes, and it’s just that the form of it, because it’s more unusual-a little different-people don’t really hear it necessarily the way I do-the way I think they would hear it. Which has become pretty obvious to me, right now.

CH: What kind of other musicians-if you were going to do something more in a "straight ahead" vein-what other ideal musicians would participate, if you could get them?

AH: I don’t really know yet. We haven’t finalized it at all. We’ve discussed it a little, but it’s still up for grabs right now. Because... it’s operating in an area that I’m not... you know, that I’m not working in, generally. I don’t know, really.

CH: It’s going to be another exciting experiment, no doubt.

Legato Land (Guitar Techniques 1996)

After a series of customary record company problems, the extraordinary instrumentalist from Yorkshire (currently residing in Southern California) is back with a new album, aptly titled ‘None Too Soon’. Cliff Douse gets the beers in...

For more than two decades Allan Holdsworth has been exciting guitar players and music lovers alike with his spectacular chord voicings and smooth, yet often angular solo lines. Although embellished with lightning speed runs, his style exudes a warmth and depth of expression that is often missing in the playing of most ‘technically oriented’ guitar players.

Allan first came to prominence during the mid-70s with popular jazz rock acts such as Tony Williams’ Lifetime and Soft Machine. His legato approach, contrasting greatly with the heavier pick styles of Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin, soon drew praise from the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Gary Moore, to name but two. He quickly became one of the most sought after guitarists during the late 70s, appearing on Bruford’s ‘One Of A Kind’, Jean-Luc Ponty’s ‘Enigmatic Ocean’ and the first UK album, all widely regarded as fusion classics. He formed his own band, IOU (named after the group’s financial status), in 1982 and has since worked on a number of critically acclaimed solo projects, despite recurring record company problems. His new album ‘None Too Soon’ seems to be no exception to the rule...

"I had a lot of problems with the record company. I was signed to a certain company for a world deal. I delivered the album in January and it was released in Japan in May. Then they informed me that they weren’t going to release it anywhere else in the world just because one guy didn’t like the music! I have only just managed to get the rights back for the rest of the world. The album is now out in Europe and it will be released in America by the end of October. This really is a drag as the album was recorded in October of 1994. It seems to be the story of my life!"

None Too Soon’ is an unusual Holdsworth album in that none of the tunes were penned by the man himself. It features compositions by jazzers such as John Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Bill Evans instead.

"It’s not a trad album. It’s a bebop album, but with a wrench or two in there. I’ve got Gordon Beck on piano, and there’s Gary Willis on bass and Kirk Covington on drums. I think it turned out pretty good and we’ll probably end up doing another, but we’ll use real piano next time, as poor old Gordon had to deal with a digital one -something he’s not used to at all!"

Allan has got through a number of guitars and amps during his long career. What equipment was used on ‘None Too Soon’ and what gear does he currently use?

"I was mainly playing my Steinbergers through a couple of Mesa Boogies, one of which is a Dual Rectifier, although I’ve actually switched to Carvin guitars just recently. Bunny Brunel (bass player, ex-Chick Corea) came over with this amazing Carvin bass guitar. I know they always had this reputation of doing high quality guitars at a lower price and all that stuff, but this guitar was really pretty amazing. Bunny suggested that I talk to them and see if they would make me an instrument. It turned out that they were interested in doing a special one-off custom guitar, but the bottom line was that if they weren’t able to make a guitar that I was going to play, then it was no deal. So they came up with several prototypes and they kept changing them and modifying them. I got two of the 1 advanced prototypes just a few days ago and they’re absolutely amazing. I’m really happy with them, so that’s what I’m going to be playing from now on. I used one for a recording yesterday and it sounded great!"

A Different View (Modern Drummer 1996)

RF: Who is on the album you just did?

AH: About a year ago, I was asked to do a track on a Mike Mainieri album, which was a collection of different guitar players doing Beatles songs. It was pretty much last-minute, so he said, "Just pick a Beatles tune, record it, and send it." I called Gordon Beck, a fantastic piano player who was in from England, and he said he had a cool arrangement of "Michelle." I knew the tune was going to be in a straight-ahead vein, and there's only one bass player who comes to my mind when I think of that: Gary Willis. I know how it is with drummers and bass players, so I asked him who he wanted to play with. He said Kirk Covington, which was fine with me. We did the track and I sent it off. They liked it and it came out. I enjoyed working with those guys, so I decided to do an album that was slightly different than my normal projects. I hadn't written any new music, so it was perfect timing. There's only one original on the album, but the rest of them are jazz standards—a John Coltrane tune, a couple of Joe Henderson tunes, familiar tunes. I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Med Siktet Innställt På Total Kontroll (MusikerMagasinet 1996, Swedish language)

He continues with mild irritation:

- Unfortunately, I cannot see an end to it. My last album, None Too Soon, was recorded two years ago! It was released in Japan, but Polydor in the United States decided that they would not release it in Europe. I fought for the rights and now it was finally released there a month ago. Big companies are not for me, and I do not intend to deal with them in the future.

None Too Soon contains compositions by Joe Henderson, Django Reinhardt and John Coltrane amongst others, and includes appearances by the Tribal Tech rhythm section. The project was initiated by Gordon Beck and Allan believes that it has two functions:

- We thought it was a good idea to show my playing in a different context. Maybe my music becomes more accessible for people if they can recognize the songs? I wanted to establish that a chord sequence is a chord sequence: the fact that one is traditional jazz and the other is from my own music makes no difference. My way of approaching music is the same, I have played over chord changes the whole time! I often get double-edged compliments like "You are playing really well, but I do not think I really understand what you ...". How should you interpret that? To my ears, it sounds like "I do not understand your music and I doubt that you do either". The other thing I wanted to achieve was to play in a traditional context with my usual distorted sound. I think it worked.

At home in the Brewery (Home Recording 1997)

And So Holdsworth has outfitted his studio with care in regards to his board (a Trident 24), his outboard gear (tons of vintage mic pres, EQ’s and digital processors), and mics (his favorite being a Neumann U87). But unless he’s been budgeted for a big machine, Holdsworth records on Alesis ADATs, as he did for his latest release, None Too Soon (AH Records). "They certainly don’t give you the same quality that the big machines do," he says, "but that doesn’t stop you from being creative with them."

Strong stuff from the brewery (EQ magazine 1997)

Holdsworth cut band tracks for his most recent album, None Too Soon (1996), at the Brewery. He also used the studio to record his guitar tracks for Heavy Machinery (1996), an album he did with former Yngwie Malmsteen sidemen Anders and Jens Johansson: "They just sent me (8-track) ADAT tapes. I played to the tapes and sent them back. It was kind of cool. The tapes had stereo drums, stereo keyboards, and bass, That gave me two or three tracks to mess around with. It can be hard, trying to play an overdub so it sounds like it really belongs on the track. So I try to get a feel for the shape of the tune before I even begin putting anything to tape."

The Outter Limits: Allan Holdsworth's Out of Bounds Existence ( 1999) What was your attitude going into this project?

Holdsworth: After doing the [1996] album None Too Soon, which was like a bunch of old jazz tunes [by the likes of John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Django Reinhardt and Bill Evans] I wanted to pursue this direction but with my original music. The interpretation of my music varies depending on who’s playing it. I had been playing with Gary Novak and Dave Carpenter, and I could hear that their interpretation was pushing into a different direction and it sounded really kind of natural. So I basically wrote the material that was on the new record with that in mind because I knew how Gary Novak would interpret it. He plays with a lot of energy but he can also play pretty soft. It’s different from the way Gary Husband’s interpretation would be and I was enjoying it. Also Dave Carpenter, who always on the live gigs would play electric bass I knew he played acoustic bass and I thought that would help even further to create the kind of sound I was looking for.

Allan Holdsworth ( 2000)

TCG: The previous CD None Too Soon was slightly more traditional. You had quite a few cover tunes.

AH: I try to be myself in any environment. It was keyboardist Gordon Beck’s idea to play recognizable tunes. He thought it might make it easier for listeners to jump from this sort of CD to some of my other recordings. The new CD Sixteen Men Of Tain has a definite jazz feel. So again it’s my music in a slightly different environment. It’s all original music. I think it actually worked out better than "None Too Soon."

-Why did you choose to play only Jazz standards on your new album?

‘I have heard people say to me for years and years that they want to steal what I’m doing but they don’t understand the music! On one hand I take that as a compliment, on the other they might think that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. In essence, my music is the same as Jazz, we improvise over chord changes.It’s just that it ends up sounding different, because of the way it was composed or maybe because I’m an idiot, I don’t know. Piano player Gordon Beck once suggested that I should do an album with more well known tunes so people can hear what I sound like over these tunes. It’s easier to hear in standards because the harmonic structure is easier to understand for people who have listened and played this kind of music before. But I don’t play bebop, I just do what I always do, how strange that sometimes may sound in this context. The other good reason for this choice is that I haven’t written enough original material to fill an album"

-Why is the new album only released in Japan?

‘My original music is difficult to categorize. Because this album is straight ahead jazz, I was able to sign for worldwide distribution with a pretty big company, Polydor. But two weeks ago, I was informed they didn’t want to release the album in Europe and the US. There’s some new chap at artists relations and he didn’t like my music or something. I started a lawsuit to get my music back, but that ain’t likely to happen. It’s Murphy’s Law: Now I’m finally playing something a bigger audience could understand and appreciate and now they don’t get to hear it. In the meantime, I started working on my next album, while my previous album is not even released yet. Murphy rules. For the newer generation of musician’s the future looks brighter, they can record their music at home and distribute through the internet without interference of record companies or record stores.’

I heard you might do thousands of takes before you’re happy with a solo

Indeed. Usually, I’m not that fast satisfied with what I’m doing. First, I always start out by writing a chart for myself with the chord changes of the song and the scales that belong to those chords.I’ve applied the same way of working with my latest standards album, although none of the songs were mine. I don’t approach the songs like a bebop player would do, like: playing his favorite licks over the same chord changes. If I hear someting in my playing that occurs too many times, I try to avoid it. Then I just play a long series of solos until I end up having something I’m happy with.

Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview ( 2000)

MRJ: Listening to the new album, 16 Men of Tain, it sounds more content with more stylistic integrity, as if you’ve really found your style

AH: It was almost like I was a guest on someone elses album! Even though it was in my name. It’s a new record company. (It’s) these two really amazing guys that have been involved in the music business before. They’re both in the computer business and they both turned out to be huge fans. They came up to (after a gig) and said We can’t find any of your records, what the hell is going on? I told them , and they just looked at each other and sid Right! We’ll start a record company! They want to get other people on the label.

Audiostreet Featured Artists (Audiostreet 2000)

"It wasn’t a conscious effort, it was just a nice accident. Because what I wanted to try and do after the last album that I did with Gordon (Beck)"None Too Soon" we played old tunes, so in a way it was my album but I didn’t think of it like it was my album. The last band album I think of was "Hard Hat Area" which was with Gary, Skuli (Sverrisson) and Steve Hunt and right after that album I was thinking I wanted to write some original music, but just put in a different setting, a slightly different setting. And in a way this also happened by accident because I was playing with Dave Carpenter, who introduced me to Gary Novak and we played a lot and we did two tours of Europe with that group and I also knew he played acoustic bass.

The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)

MM: It seems you’ve dialed back on the overdrive sounds. Am I correct in this observation? Is this something that you’ve done on purpose as a musical choice or are you able to get the sounds in your head with newer modeling amps/pedals without the saturation that you’ve used in the past?

AH: Well, it’s really related to the kind of music. When I did the album None Too Soon and then 16 Men of Tain it was a challenge to put a distorted guitar sound in that musical setting which was basically acoustic bass and drums. If I was to take the sounds I was using on albums like Hard Hat Area which was mostly the Boogie’s and stuff, when you stick that in with acoustic bass and drums it just doesn’t seem to work. It just doesn’t seem necessary to use the same amount of distortion. When Gary’s playing it works because it’s aggressive and has got that edge in that setting. But something softer and more delicate like on None Too Soon, it just didn’t sound right. It was a real challenge to make that work and sound right and I was pleased that I was able to do that in that setting. Now I don’t use that much distortion but I still use it to get sustain and but I get more of a controlled thing. The new album will be a return of stuff I used to do, more aggressive sounding.

None Too Soon (Guitar Club 1997), English

GC: Let's start with the last "None Too Soon", including some personal remakes of songs by important authors like Irving Berlin, John Coltrane (Countdown), Django Reinhardt (Nuages), Bill Evans (Very Early), and even Lennon/McCartney (Norwegian Wood)?

AH: With me, in the album he plays an exceptional trio of Gordon Beck on keyboards, Gary Willis on bass and Kirk Covington on drums. The idea of "None Too Soon" came from Gordon. One day he takes me aside and tells me "why do we record a collection of songs known and loved by people, family for most of them? So that they can more easily approach and appreciate what your music is?” [Machine back translated.]

So, if you want, a double purpose: to present songs that belong to our lives, which are now part of us as men and artists, and to be in some way introductory to my way of playing and interpreting music. This is because, speaking of original pieces, those who listen often do not have reference points to better interpret structure and meaning. Especially if the type of approach is not the easiest, the simplest, as in my case. [Machine back translated.]

GC: At that point you chose the authors. Following which criterion?

AH: [xxx] I had a precedent to watch, an album released three years ago, at least I think, for the Japanese market, where guitarists of different musical extractions engaged in a free re-reading of Beatles songs. I think it was called "Come Together". The idea, in its simplicity, seemed immediately brilliant. At that time, Gordon often came to me, we were frequenting each other fairly because they were both engaged in similar projects, and the speech fell on that record. We therefore decided to take advantage of the favorable moment. We therefore called Gary Willis and Kirk (Covington) and began to choose the material. Of course the repertoire to draw on was very vast. We then restricted the field to those authors that we all felt closer, common passions cultivated over time. And so the final playing list came out. Personally, I immediately proposed How Deep is the Ocean by Irvine Berlin for me one of the greatest great composers in the history of music, and Nuages by Diango Reinhardt, another authentic monster of skill and creativity. [Machine back translated.]

Of course, everyone puts the titles on which, in 99% of cases, we immediately agreed. Like Isotope by Joe Henderson or "Countdown" by Coltrane: pillars of our artistic formation. Thinking of Come Together we also focused on a Beatles song, opting for "Norwegian Wood". One of the most particular episodes of the repertano (discovery?), either for the then novelty of the sitar or for the harmonic structure and the melody for once much more important and pre-eminent than words. The remake and result spot on, atmospheric. One of the most profound and touching moments of the collection, perhaps together with Henderson's "Inner Urge." [Machine back translated.]

GC: On the album you almost always use the faithful Steinberger, plus the SynthAxe in two or three tracks. You were a pioneer of synthesized guitar sound. Giving SynthAxe an Aura of Credibility?

AH: Used in three tracks ("Nuages", "None Too Soon" and Very Early), with excellent results. I consider myself neither a pioneer nor a great talent just to be able to produce nice and interesting sounds from this instrument! I never understood the mistrust and indifference that is even worse, towards the SynthAxe. Contrary to what one hears, although its admirers are as numerous as the detractors, this tool is useful and interesting. [Machine back translated.]

Gary Willis on "None Too Soon"

What was it like to work with Allan Holdsworth on his last album None Too Soon?

It was fun. Because of the constraints of his studio, it wasn't like we were playing with Holdsworth, because he didn't track. He added his stuff later. It was kind of a weird recording process. But it turned out fine as far as what he put on there. Part of it was his constant insistence on his mediocrity—he didn't want to be playing along, or whatever. He says he wouldn't keep anything anyway. The other thing is the size of his studio—it only had room for drums, and then me and keyboards in the control room. There wasn't actually a place to set up guitar for any useful purpose.

What did you mean by Holdworth’s "constant insistence on his mediocrity?"

He has this habit of anytime you bring up his playing in any way, especially when it's a compliment, he'll go on and on and try to quadruple the amount of time you spent complimenting with self-deprecation.

What do you think of the album?

The main problem was, we probably would have gotten a better overall vibe if we had recorded in a studio with an acoustic piano, because that's more where Gordon Beck's coming from. You know, he's an amazing keyboard player, but his whole thing is getting sounds out of a grand piano as opposed to a MIDI instrument. So that was the negative that came out of it, maybe. As a sideman, I didn't envision anything to start out with, you know. I was there to play. I can't really pass judgment on what it could have been, I don't really like to think about it that way.

But what do you think of the end result?

What it is is pretty cool, considering we were tracking without guitar and we were tracking with MIDI instead of a grand piano, which would have left it with a stronger jazz vibe, or a better feeling overall. So if you take into consideration those two factors, I think it came out pretty well.

Kirk Covington on "None Too Soon"

DB: What was it like working with Allan holdsworth, in None Too Soon?

Kirk: The truth is I will always be grateful for the call, especially that it might be the only ‘bop’ record he ever does. Who knew he could swing that hard? Gordon Beck was a bit out of place on a piano controller instead of a grand, but nice record…