With A Heart In My Song (album)

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Allan plays all SynthAxe here, except for the chords on “54 Duncan Terrace”. The music sometimes has traditional jazz elements, as most of the tunes are Gordon’s, but as it’s all done with electronic instruments, there’s a modern feel to it. “Sundays” is Allan’s solo piece, which includes sound effects from a fishing trip, and has a very orchestral feel. It then goes into an organ/choral-like section where Allan ventures into spiritual territory.


Allan Holdsworth’s Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)

Allan focused his attention on the SynthAxe for With A Heart In My Song, his second album of duos with Gordon Beck since meeting the pianist in London in the mid ‘70s. The Things You See, released in 1980, contained intimate, compelling duets between acoustic and electric guitar and piano - sort of a space-age take on a Jim Hall/Bill Evans dialog. Beck is one of the few bebop-based musicians Allan has worked with closely, and the guitarist has had to adjust his approach to suit the slightly unfamiliar territory. "I once worked in a band Gordon had for a while in France, which was kind of hard for me because I was like a fish out of water," he recalls. "But the more I played with him, the more I enjoyed it, because it was a way to check my own progress. At one time I probably wouldn’t have been able to play on it at all, but because of things I’ve learned, I actually felt a lot more comfortable playing and soloing over his changes."

I was really looking forward to a European tour that was supposed to follow the release of my latest album with [pianist] Gordon Beck, With A Heart In My Song. We were going to go out as a duo and play material from the album, and I was really excited because it was going to be the only tour I’d ever done where I’d only play SynthAxe - I wasn’t going to take a guitar. It was going to be acoustic piano and some synthesizer stuff, with some rhythmic things that were sequenced. The guy from the record company called and told us that when they learned of my involvement, everybody over there said, "Oh, no; that guy’s a rock player." It just put them off. I feel really frustrated by that, because I don’t really see the music I play as rock at all. I mean, I can see its roots, but I think they must just hear the tone; a somewhat distorted guitar sound, and automatically the music goes right by; all they can think is "Oh, this is rock." It’s a weird world.

L’hommage de Jean-Marie Salhani à Allan Holdsworth (Guitaremag 2017)

We did a second album together afterwards, in L.A. entitled “With A Heart In My Song”. It's all electric. Allan no longer played acoustic guitar, he played electric guitar and Synthaxe. It was made at his home in L.A., he had one of the first home studio in which I could worked. He was much ahead of his time and already made his own studio in his house, he called it "The Brewery".

It has to be said that Allan was a big big fan of beer he had a great knowledge of beers from all around the world, and I think he could have been a great brewer. He also invented a pump to draft the beer. He patented it for a fortune, and didn't market it, because he realized he would have been in another world, and the business world wasn't his one. He was a musician to the bone, very focused on what he was doing, it was all that mattered.

- A few memories about this second album in duo, and the recording in his home studio? The evolution regarding the first one? What can you tell us?

- For the first one, the acoustic one, there was a constant modesty, a chastity, if I may say. Actually, Allan was very introverted, very modest. He sung on that album, a song called “At The Edge”, he asked everybody to leave the studio, so we left him alone. He did the recording by himself, he performed by himself, he didn't want us to see him sing. He has a very distinctive voice, very moving. For the other album however, at his home, he was much more at ease, he was on his ground. The first time was more uncomfortable and he was facing Gordon who was kind of monumental, as a jazz figure, whereas the other album, “With A Heart In My Song”, he was, like I said, on his own turf, so he was much more comfortable. Even though he is at his best, I think, when he was at risk, like in the first album “The Things You See”, he was never better than when he was in danger.

- So we can end by evoking the musician and the guitar player he was, in retrospect, how would place him within the guitar world?

- Well, I would say that he is the guitar player of the guitar players, Allan Holdsworth gave something to all the guitar players, everybody owes him, whether it's for the sound, the fingerings, the fluidity, the improvisation, the personality.