Written By Braddon S. Williams

Allan Holdsworth: None Too Soon

None Too Soon (1996), by Allan Holdsworth, is a jazz album that somehow manages to sound both traditional and left of center, simultaneously.

Allan Holdsworth played guitar like John Coltrane played saxophone; completely free and almost stream of consciousness.

The notes just glide off his fingers in the most entrancing

patterns, like stones skipping across a still body of water.

The songs on None Too Soon are primarily jazz standards from the likes of Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Irving Berlin, Django Reinhardt, Bill Evans, and Lennon & McCartney (not jazz, but jazzed up Beatles!).

Pianist Gordon Beck contributed 2 songs that fit right in with the better known tunes. Throughout, Beck plays wonderful accompaniment to Holdsworth’s magical solo excursions, and provides plenty of tasty soloing of his own. Allan Holdsworth was a giant of the guitar, and of music altogether. He was one of a kind, and his playing will endure.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

John Coltrane: Giant Steps

One of the most influential and gifted sax players in history, John Coltrane, released Giant Steps (1960) not long after completing recording Kind Of Blue with Miles Davis.

Coltrane’s playing on these landmark jazz records was revolutionary at the time and legendary for all time. His tone was a thing of beauty and his choices of chord patterns to solo over were soon known as Coltrane changes.

Even his melodic phrasing earned the colorful title of “sheets of sound.”

When I’m in the mood for pure jazz, the two artists I invariably go to are Miles and Coltrane, the twin towers of excellence.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Al Di Meola: Gypsy

Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy (1977) was an exceptional jazz fusion instrumental album that covered a lot of ground in both electric and acoustic guitar styles.

Di Meola could play faster than anyone I had heard at that time, but he always sounded both classy and passionate. He wasn’t playing fast just for the sake of speed.

His compositions were full of great melodic ideas and transitions, allowing the rhythm section and keyboards to shine as much as he did.

Big time talent was all over Elegant Gypsy: Steve Gadd and Lenny White on drums, Jan Hammer and Barry Miles on keyboards, and a stunning duet/duel on flamenco guitar with Paco de Lucia on the track Mediterranean Sundance.

My personal favorite songs were Race With Devil On Spanish Highway, Flight Over Rio, Elegant Gypsy Suite, and the awesome acoustic track Lady Of Rome, Sister Of Brazil.

Di Meola eventually gave up electric guitar for many years to concentrate on acoustic, classical, and Latin styles. In 2006 he finally returned to the electric and I’m glad he did, because he just has magnificent talent, tone, and a sound that is all his own.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Stanley Clarke: School Days

Another pioneering virtuoso bassist from the jazz fusion explosion of the 1970’s, Stanley Clarke rose to fame with Return To Forever and also put out a string of excellent solo albums. Probably the best known (and my personal favorite) was School Days (1976).

The song School Days kicked off the album with one of the best bass riffs of all time and featured Clarke’s ripping bass solo with blinding speed and plenty of slap ‘n pop.

Desert Song was an acoustic number with Clarke on standup bass and John McLaughlin on guitar.

The closing track, Life Is Just A Game, showcased Clarke on a brief lead vocal, plus an insane guitar solo from Icarus Johnson and an equally thrilling bass solo where Clarke matched the guitarist’s speed and intensity note for note. Some of the drummers on the album included Steve Gadd and Billy Cobham, and George Duke contributed some keyboards.

School Days is a great album from one of the best bass players in the game.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jaco Pastorius

Jaco Pastorius released his (self titled) first solo album in 1976. Helping Pastorius out were some heavy hitters in the jazz community, like Herbie Hancock, Lenny White, Hubert Laws, Don Arias, Wayne Shorter, Randy & Michael Brecker, Narada Michael Walden, and Sam & Dave, who contributed vocals on the funky and soulful Come On, Come Over.

The opening cut, Donna Lee (by Charlie Parker) displays Jaco’s flawless use of harmonics, and establishes his mastery of the electric bass. Jaco Pastorius is not just a collection of bass solos, though.

Jaco proves himself as a team player throughout; keeping a cavernous deep pocket and being subtle when needed, and stepping forward and displaying dizzying technique at the perfect times.

Even when other musicians are in the spotlight, Pastorius is a joy to listen to at all times. The man had such personality in his playing style, and his tone on the fretless bass was unmistakably his trademark.

There have been countless bass players (and musicians in gerneral) who have been influenced by Jaco, but he truly was one of a kind.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Weather Report: Heavy Weather

Weather Report made this list on the strength of their 1977 release, Heavy Weather.

More specifically, Weather Report is here due to the bass playing of one Jaco Pastorius, who was the bass playing equivalent of Jimi Hendrix.

Pastorius played fretless bass, and in a band that included Wayne Shorter on saxophone and Joe Zawinul on keyboards (2 alumni from Miles Davis bands), he still managed to stand out as the most valuable player.

Jazz fusion was in its golden age when this album came out, and the leadoff track, Birdland, was one of the biggest songs ever in that genre. Other classics included Teen Town, A Remark You Made, and Havona.

https://youtu.be/rI87xvv-OJE

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Miles Davis is my undisputed heavyweight champion of jazz, and Kind Of Blue is the best jazz album of all time…end of story. Before I ever thought about playing guitar, I was a trumpet player, and Miles was this mythical figure, impossibly cool and godly talented. Kind Of Blue came out in 1959, 2 years before I was born. It was a break from the bebop style that was immensely popular at the time in favor of a newer, modal style of improvisation. Davis had a crew of monster players, including the mighty John Coltrane and “Cannonball” Adderly on tenor and alto saxophones, respectively, and Bill Evans on piano. These sublimely talented soloists breathed creative fire into the 5 compositions on Kind Of Blue and essentially made jazz (indeed, music in general) history. This album is timeless and will continue to influence musicians and provide musical bliss for generations to come.

Written By Braddon S. Willliams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind