Bass Transcription: Jimmy Johnson’s Bass Line on Alan Holdsworth’s “Tokyo Dream”

I was sad to learn of the news of Allan Holdsworth’s passing. He left a great legacy to all guitarists and musicians in general, and his playing in the 70’s had a great impact on guitarists such as Frank Gambale, Bill Connors, Scott Henderson and even Eddie Van Halen. His way of playing the guitar was revolutionary, his legato style, his use of chords gave him a unique voice in the instrument and the music.

The original version of “Tokyo Dream” is on the Road Games album, with Jeff Berlin and Chad Wackerman, but I chose this live version because it was the first song by Allan Holdsworth that I heard. I watched this video with a friend in the 80’s over and over, in the VHS era. I liked the intensity of this song and how well Jimmy Johnson plays; he is super musical and solid at the same time with Chad Wackerman. This trio sounds very futuristic, considering that it was recorded in 1984!

Musical Analysis

This has been one of the most difficult and long transcriptions I’ve ever done because six minutes of music represents six pages, and I wrote it in 4/4 giving many very small rhythmic figures, sixteenth notes and triplets.

The style of Johnson is very personal and characteristic. He uses a lot of glissandos and slides, which I tried to notate as much as possible. His style combines an advanced rhythmic sense with a very melodic form of playing. We also find some “double stops” or arpeggios, giving a harmonic support to the improvisations of Holdsworth. If we compare other bass players who played with Holdsworth, such as Dave Carpenter, we will see that Johnson uses mostly chord tones, but almost never uses chords on the bass, unlike Dave Carpenter’s trio with Gary Novak. Johnson gives a solid base in a modern power trio concept.

Follow along with the transcription and the video:

See you next time, and thanks!

Marcelo Cordova is an electric and acoustic bass player from Chile. He has released five solo albums. Marcelo endorses EBS amps and play Pavel Basses.

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  1. I was so heartened to see this discussion and also the bass transcription as a newly ‘trying out bass’ player and huge Holdsworth fan. Off topic here, I have always wanted to play the Jimmy Johnson bass solo that was on Panic Station actually, from Metal Fatigue. That bass solo just resonated down to my very soul. I wonder if Jimmy knows how amazing and special he is? I also LOVE Tokyo Dream, and the bass parts seemed quite challenging also. I appreciate anyone who loves Holdsworth songs and great instrument playing as much as you obviously do, especially to have done a great job like this on the bass trans. Thank you so much. I still feel so sad about Allan passing. I think he was one of the top many prog influences that have touched my life. I was so lucky to meet and talk with Allan three different times in my life, at concerts and also the NAMM show in Anaheim/Los Angeles, CA. He always remembered me by name, which is astounding considering how many people he must have met over the years. To me and my band, he was always the number one…We did a really nice cover of Tokyo Dream by the way. Our bass player was a huge fan of Geoff, Jimmie, and all the other amazing bassists out there… Bass, Love and Peace from me, playing my 5-string bass here in Istanbul, Turkey….Z