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. Check out his website, where you can download his transcriptions and listen his music. Marcelo endorsers EBS amps and play Pavel Basses.

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