Pat Smythe was a British pianist. Allan performed several gigs with Smythe in the 70s, but never recorded on any album with him. They did appear on BBC sessions together, however. Allan also wrote the song "54 Duncan Terrace" as a tribute to Smythe, this was his street address in London. Allan also played a solo version of Smythe's composition "New Dawn" on "Tales From The Vault".
- 1 Allan Holdsworth (English Tour Program 1989)
- 2 Allan Holdsworth (Sound Waves 2012)
- 3 Allan Holdsworth's Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)
- 4 Guitarist's Guitarist (Jazz Times 1989)
- 5 Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)
- 6 Once Upon a Lifetime (Jazz Times 2010)
- 7 The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)
"I asked if he remembered me and fortunately he did. So I got a lift down to London with a mate and took Ray up on that offer. He helped get me some gigs; I worked at Ronnie Scott's - they were good to me too - with pianist Pat Smythe, and Ray on sax. I tell you, man, without that guy, and without that room...
How did you originally become a member of “The New Tony Williams' Lifetime?”
I was playing at Ronny Scott's club one day with a friend of mine named Pat Spive, who is no longer with us. Chuck Mangione and his band were also playing there at the time. Chuck Mangione got sick while he was in London, and my friend Pat was sitting in for him while he recovered. Pat mentioned me to the guys in the band, and they asked me if I wanted to sit in with them. It seems like this is a strange way for things to happen, but this is exactly what happened. When the band went home to the States, Tony Williams ran into the bass player Alphonso Johnson. Tony said that he was going to put a new band together, and he was looking for a guitar player. Alphonso just said: “There's this English guy I just played with, and you ought to give him a try.” And that's what happened.
"54 Duncan Terrace"
My late friend Pat Smythe was a very inspirational character, a wonderful piano player, and a very musical, mellow guy. He played the nicest chords, and his technique was very delicate. He had this old Bluthner piano and got a great sound. His original tunes were always so pretty. I got the first four chords of this and said, "Man, that sounds like Pat." Originally, the long solo section in the beginning was going to be for myself, and then I thought it would be really great to get Alan Pasqua to put some acoustic piano on it. He's just incredible; he played a beautiful solo.
"The guys all played incredibly. I was really moved by what they did. Among some of the highlights noted by Holdsworth are drummer Gary' Husband's City Nights (Very nice," says Holdsworth; "with good chord progressions."); Steve Hunt's Maid Marian [sic] ("When he first presented it to us it reminded me of something from Old England, like Robin Hood, but it was quite soft so we renamed it Maid Marian."); Endomorph, a solo piece in which Holdsworth dubs guitar over Synth-Axe; Spokes ("I really liked bicycling riding when I was a kid, and this piece reminded me of it - of wheelies, actually."); 54 Duncan Terrace (This was the address of a really great piano player friend of mine who died a few years ago. He had this wonderful room in his house.. A white room with blue clouds painted on it or maybe it was vice versa And he had this old Bluthner piano in there. The music he used to write was soft and gentle, with colorful harmonics. And I wrote the piece for him. The chord sequen ce sort of reminds me of something he would have done.").
MP: And in 1975 you got with Soft Machine – that was a band which used a lot of different time signatures – was it a learning process for you?
AH: Yeah, yeah, I really enjoyed working with that band, they're all great musicians and like the drummer in the band at the time, John Marshall, I played with him in different people, I used to work with a piano player, an English piano player, a jazz piano player, he's really a wonderful musician, his name is Pat Smythe, he died a few years ago but he used to have John play in his band, and so I met John through that, and John told the band Soft Machine and then they invited me out to do some guest shows with that band and then after we'd done those they asked me if I'd like to join the band, so I said, yeah, yeah, it was great. I really enjoyed working with them.
“I was working with a piano player named Pat Smythe and quite often we'd open for groups at Ronnie Scott's,” recalls Holdsworth. “Chuck Mangione was headlining there with Pat La Barbera on sax, Joe La Barbera on drums and Alphonso Johnson on bass. Chuck got really sick during this engagement, so there were a couple of nights that he wasn't able to be there and they asked Pat Smythe if he would help out. Pat mentioned to the guys that he knew this guitar player and asked would they let him sit in on one set. So I did.”
MM: Ok, a question from me. I enjoyed hearing you play standards and really dug hearing you play over altered blues changes like the tune Isotope. You have such a great sense of phrasing and definitely from a bebop tradition. Do you like playing over those types of changes?
AH: Well it's like Pat Smythe used to say to me “the only thing worse than playing over one chord is playing over two” (laughter) so it's kind of like that. How many times do you want to play the blues? I mean there are some great blues tunes, but it's just, I don't know…I just don't feel the need to do that, but I understand how people in the audience can have fun seeing that and listening to that.