“The John Coltrane of the Guitar” plays a rare local gig in Venice

Allan Holdsworth
Photo by Anil Prasad

Allan Holdsworth counts Robben Ford, Pat Metheny, Tom Morello, Carlos Santana, Eddie Van Halen and the late Frank Zappa among his dedicated fans — Ford once dubbed him “the John Coltrane of the guitar” — yet more than four decades into his career, the 70-year-old guitar virtuoso remains anything but a household name.

That may have something to do with prog-rock’s and jazz fusion’s current lack of mainstream appeal, but it could also be by choice. The humble Brit has publicly cringed at accolades showered on him since his glory days playing with acts like Soft Machine, Jean-Luc Ponty, prog-rock supergroup U.K., and Lifetime (the latter alongside Miles Davis drummer Tony Williams and Cream bassist Jack Bruce).

Holdsworth was one of the first to use synthesizers to develop his distinctive tone — several of his albums feature his signature SynthAxe — and peers and industry insiders have long been awed by his harmonic complexity and immense vocabulary of licks and unexpected, fingerpicked chord voicings.

Los Angeles-based label Manifesto Records is honoring Holdsworth’s wide influence and career with a 12-CD box set worthy of a rock star, gathering all of his remastered solo albums from 1982 through 2003 under an umbrella title cribbed from a 2008 Guitar Player cover story: “The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!” A quasi “best of” set is also being issued, the two-disc “Eidolon.”

Both are being celebrated at a release show next Tuesday at the Del Monte Speakeasy, where Holdsworth will give a rare local live performance.

— Bliss Bowen

Allan Holdsworth plays live at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at The Townhouse & Del Monte Speakeasy, 52 Windward Ave., Venice. $20 presale/$25 at the door. Cameron Morgan opens. Call (310) 392-4040 or visit townhousevenice.com.