(JMS)

This classy guitar and piano duet from 1980 is quite an anomalous outing in Allan Holdsworth’s career as it contains rather unusual elements even for such a pathfinder. For starters, two rarities: the acoustic guitar, an instrument certainly not loved by the Leeds virtuoso due to lack of sustain, is vastly utilized throughout – and in “At The Edge” our man sings, with lovely results. There’s also a bit of conceptual continuity involved: the title track will re-appear in I.O.U. (1982), its vocal line directly taken from the above mentioned “At The Edge”, while the record’s opener “Golden Lakes” is a delicate tune from Igginbottom’s Wrench (1969), another item that the author plainly hates, which happens with practically everything released until last week (famously, he threw very harsh words against John Stevens after the drummer published their sessions, despite Holdsworth’s request to the contrary).

On the opposite front, Beck offers proof of a monstrous digital dexterity most everywhere, all the more noteworthy given that his flurries and articulations remain on the comprehensible side of things even for listeners not really well-versed in jazz. Beck had been a Holdsworth partner since a few years prior (they recorded Sunbird in 1979 with Aldo Romano and Jean-François Jenny-Clark). To this day the cross-pollination of Bill Evans-like lyricism, blues and quasi-atonal juggling – the latter finding a decisive demonstration in “Diminished Responsibility” – constitutes a functional complement for the guitarist’s absurdly complicated yet always falling-in-place lines.

Refined, crystalline music that regularly needs to be attentively revisited, although I’m sure that one of the two parties involved would disagree.

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