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Progrock: Allan Holdsworth and Chad Wackerman

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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH: Hard Hat Area (CD on Moonjune Records)

This CD from 2012 is a reissue of a release from 1993 and features 42 minutes of searing progrock music.

Holdsworth plays guitar and SynthAxe. Joining him are: Steve Hunt (on keyboards), Skuli Sverrisson (on bass), and Gary Husband (on drums).

Instrumental progrock with a driving force typified by the nimble guitar stylings.

HoldsworthÕs guitarwork is known for its rapid-fire notes and searing sound, and both aspects are definitely found here. The riffs are scalding as they belt out with a liquid fury that is hardly aggressive despite their predilection to peel paint from the walls.

The keyboards are equally agile, creating lavish sweeps that glisten with a molten fervor.

The bass has a solid presence that is suitably immersed in the mix, where its rumble provides a durable bottom for the music.

The drums are frantic and hyperactive, although during certain passages the rhythms adopt a sultry lassitude reminiscent of cafˇ jazz. But their integral charm lies in their spry delivery of intricate tempos.

These compositions are superb doses of energetic tuneage. Blending together elements of jazz and rock, they establish a delightful barrage of sinuous tunes guaranteed to satisfy fans of music that has oomph without being overly intrusive. The softer songs are heartwarming with their soothing caress. Whether blazing or lilting, these tunes possess a charisma of sparkling allure.

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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH: None Too Soon (CD on Moonjune Records)

This 2012 CD is a reissue of a release from 1996 and features 51 minutes of cool jazz progrock.

Holdsworth plays guitar and SynthAxe. He is joined by: Gorden Beck (on keyboards and digital piano), Gary Willis (on bass), and Kirk Covington (on drums).

In contrast to most Holdsworth (where the music is composed by him), all of the songs on None Too Soon were penned by others, among them jazz greats John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, Django Reinhardt, with an Irving Berlin song and "Norwegian Wood" by Lennon & McCartney.

A softer touch marks the guitarwork here, with crisp notes bundled together into glistening riffs. But fear not, there are still numerous instances in which HoldsworthÕs hyper-speed fingers deliver melodies of searing beauty.

The keyboards are suitably jazzy, especially the sprightly piano passages that evoke smoke-filled cafes with melancholic acumen.

The basslines possess a dampness to their rumble, with almost hesitant notes buzzing in the background.

The drums complete the albumÕs jazz motif with bouncy rhythms that remain immersed in the mix instead of crashing forth with any rock gusto.

Since these compositions stem from masters, letÕs study how Holdsworth and his band apply progressive sensibilities to these jazz classics. The performances are eloquent and meticulous, yet display a carefree zest that breathes suitable vitality to the tunes. decorative rule

CHAD WACKERMAN: Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations (CD on Moonjune Records)

This CD from 2012 features 53 minutes of rock music with a progressive edge.

Wackerman plays drums and percussion. Joining him are: Allan Holdsworth (ex-Soft Machine) (on guitar, SynthAxe and Starr Z-board), Jim Cox (on keyboards), and Jimmy Johnson (on bass).

Solid rock tunes given a progressive slant.

The guitar is slick with blazing riffs and nimble-fingered application that produces notes faster than one might think humanly possible. The riffs smolder with a seething fury, as each chord retains its incandescent power after leaving the instrument. There are numerous instances in which the guitarÕs utterances sound more like a keyboard whose chords sneer with a mirthful glow.

The keyboards are delightfully slippery, delineating melodic enhancements that slither through the mix with elegance.

The bass exudes a soft rumble that allows it to hide in the flow while supporting the music, while on occasions it bullies its way to the forefront to offer its thunder buzz as a lead instrument.

The drums are extremely hyperactive, yet controlled to deliver complex rhythms of a highly attractive nature. Whether pounding out tempos of earth-shattering scope, or pittering percussive enhancement to softer passages, the beats are crisp and puissant.

Wackerman (who started as Frank ZappaÕs percussionist in the Eighties and has gone on to drum for the likes of James Taylor) has achieved a remarkable mastery of combining enchanting melodies with compelling rhythmics. These compositions superbly season conventional instrumental rock tunes with a sneaky progressive inclination, resulting in music whose charismatic luster appeals to fans of both genres.

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