"It's the live classic that's waited for three years to happen. Reuniting for a fall 2006 tour to pay tribute to time spent in the mid-'70s fusion juggernaut, the New Tony Williams Lifetime, guitarist Allan Holdsworth and keyboardist Alan Pasqua recruited Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and in-demand drummer Chad Wackerman for an exciting cross-section of material that first saw the light of day on a DVD recorded at Oakland's legendary Yoshi's. Now, Blues for Tony takes the best material from that tour and makes it available in CD form, creating an exciting "you are there" double-disc of music that comprises a full evening of music.
Holdsworth's classic "Fred," Pasqua's equally iconic "Protocosmos" and Lifetime bassist Tony Newman's energetic "Red Alert" are all there from Believe It, New Lifetime's now iconic first release, but here stretched out with plenty of space for relentless soloing from everyone in the group. The 2006/2007 tours would have a lasting affect on Pasqua, inspiring him to return to higher octane fusion for his solo recordings. On Blues for Tony, he plays with the kind of unfettered abandon and deep sophistication that so defined his work with Williams, a direction he largely deserted for more elegant acoustic outings like 1995's Dedications, from which the darkly balladic "San Michele" is culled, but is here reinvented as a potential fusion classic, with its Mahavishnu Orchestra-like arpeggios, Pasqua's gritty electric piano and Wackerman's thundering kit.
In addition to material from Believe It, the group revisits two of Holdsworth's own well-known classics: the change-heavy "Looking Glass," from 1985's Atavachron, and funkier "Pud Wud" from 1990's Sand, the latter opening with an atmospheric unaccompanied solo from Holdsworth that asserts his continued dominance as one of jazz's most harmonically distinctive players, and Haslip's most impressive solo of the set - the perfect confluence of pure virtuosity and in-the-moment melodic composition. Holdsworth's velvety smooth tone is more vocal-like than it's ever been, but equally there's an edge that's reemerged in recent years but has remained undocumented - until now.
Wackerman contributes "The Fifth", undisputable evidence that fusion can swing. Easily filling the late Tony Williams' shoes by honoring his spirit rather than imitating him, his playing on Blues for Tony finds the nexus point of spare economy and unabashed power. Pushing "Protocosmos" and the opening section of the collective composition "It Must Be Jazz" with visceral groove, Wackerman also demonstrates, in the latter song's second half, an equal propensity for greater freedom. He works hand-in-glove throughout with Haslip, who may have grown up as a fan of New Lifetime, but is now an unequivocal equal and perfect fit for the group's combination of technical prowess and masterful interplay.
Emerging on the British scene in the early 1970s with groups including Ian Carr's Nucleus, Soft Machine and Tempest, Allan Holdsworth's remarkable fluidity and profound vernacular quickly gained international attention, resulting in stints with Jean-Luc Ponty, Gong, UK, Bruford and, of course, Tony Williams. From 1983's Road Games to 2004's Then!, the guitarist has released a string of groundbreaking and essential solo albums that, with their sonic innovations and unmistakable harmonic language, have influenced guitarists worldwide. Since playing in New Lifetime, Alan Pasqua has been a busy session player for over 30 years, working with everyone from Gary Burton, Peter Erskine and John Patitucci to Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper and Santana. He began focusing more heavily on his solo career in the mid-'90s, with albums including 1993's stellar Milagro, 2005's sublime My New Old Friend and 2007's electrifying Antisocial Club.
Starting out charting complex territory in Frank Zappa's early-'80s groups, Chad Wackerman quickly became one of Holdsworth's drummers of choice in addition to a busy session career with artists ranging from Barbra Streisand and Bill Watrous to Steve Vai and Andy Summers, and has since built a small but significant discography as a leader, from 1992's Forty Reasons and 1994's The View, both featuring Holdsworth, to recent 2000’s Scream and 2004’s Legs Eleven. Haslip's primary focus has been Yellowjackets, the group he co-founded with keyboardist Russell Ferrante in 1980, but he's also released two albums as a leader and three with the collective supertrio Jing Chi, played with the late Tommy Bolin, Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart, while continues to be an in-demand player with artists including Bruce Hornsby and Terri Lyne Carrington.
Blues for Tony brings four masters of their instruments together for an exciting set that may have started with a tribute in mind, but quickly turned into something much more. Fusion at its best, it combines all the prerequisite energy and virtuosity with a deeper language and freer approach, as Holdsworth, Pasqua, Haslip and Wackerman deliver the goods on what will certainly be one of 2009's hottest jazz and fusion releases."