Review: Holdsworth, band rock the Van Dyck

The first of two sold out shows by guitarist Alan Holdsworth and his band Saturday at the Van Dyck w

After guitarist Alan Holdsworth introduced his bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Virgil Donati on Saturday at the Van Dyck, Haslip introduced Holdsworth who, exaggeratedly grateful for the acknowledgement, said, “Now, I’m inspired!”

No kidding.

The first of two sold out shows was equally inspired by rock muscle and jazz complexity, especially in the beats. Good thing the weather turned cooler today or Holdsworth and his band and opener Marbin would have ignited the place.

“Devil Take the Hindmost” introduced Holdsworth’s band’s 1970s sonic vocabulary and fusion attack, Holdsworth flat-picking cliché-free solos or plucking feathery chords with his fingers in support, Haslip finger-picking chordal cues and rhythmic bombs and Donati mostly rocking the house.

“Texas” was even more complex rhythmically. So was the equally challenging “Water on the Brain” with Holdsworth ceding lots of solo time to his band mates and taking his cues from them, following Donati as he went double time slamming two snares in the fattest rim-shots since the late, great Tom Ardolino played the room with NRBQ.

“Fred” was a fusion samba, episodic, restless and drums-driven. Then Holdsworth let the pressure off with a solo improvisation so lyrical in its evocation of a violin in a small string orchestra with lots of counterpoint, or of lacy clouds, that nobody moved. Then Holdsworth seamlessly summoned Haslip and Donati into an excerpt from “Material Real” with a stellar Holdsworth solo riding a muscular groove. They closed with Holdsworth at his most melodically intense in “Dr. Spock,” Donati roaring like a big train on his two snares and his kickdrum hitting even faster and Haslip matching him slam for slam.

This is a masterly trio of powerful elements linked closely in Holdsworth’s jazz-rock concept: Holdsworth’s own brilliant guitar fireworks, Haslip’s uncanny ability to hold this careening machine together rhythmically and harmonically and Donati’s imagination and testosterone. Holdsworth cued them with just a glance and they followed instantaneously with nanosecond precision. They played lots of notes, very close together, always the right ones.

They followed surprise openers Marbin — saxophonist Danny Markovitch, guitarist Dani Rabin, bassist Ian Stewart and drummer Justyn Lawrence — whose addition to the bill had the Van Dyck crew scrambling. They displayed nearly as much muscle as Holdsworth and crew, but less variety.

Rabin noted,“90 percent of you are musicians,” there to see Holdsworth, one of the greatest guitarists playing today. But that didn’t deter them from revving and rocking the Van Dyck on their own terms. Any guitarist who precedes Holdsworth is potentially in deep trouble, but Markovitch didn’t back down, pressing hard in “Loopy” to start their 40-minute set and playing atmospheric slide to start “Crystal Bells,” their best song, with a throbbing groove and simmering sax.

As they left and Holdsworth and company took over, Marbin bassist Stewart told Haslip, “Now is when you guys make us look like little kids,” but Marbin held their own.

Categories: Entertainment

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