Sunday, April 17, 2005

Alan Pasqua - My New Old Friend



Pianist Alan Pasqua isn’t a household name in the jazz world, though his cv is quite long and illustriuous, including stints on piano and keyboards with everyone from Sammy Haggar to Joe Williams to Tony Williams’ band Lifetime. Pasqua’s new cd crossed my desk the other day, and I was intrigued from the start. First, it’s on Cryptogramophone Records, a small label out of Southern California, that doesn’t release a lot of music, but when it does, it usually is very good and distinctive. They’re the home of one of my favorite new cds, from someone who’s fast becoming one of my favorite bass players, Darek Oles. His new album, “Like a Dream” captures the big toned bassist with Brad Mehldau in a duo setting, (as well as some quintet work with a group including Bennie Maupin). When I saw that Oles appears on Alan Pasqua’s new cd, I was intrigued all the more, and of course, it’s hard to go wrong with the always tasteful Peter Erskine on drums, so into the cd player went “My New Old Friend.” And I must admit, I’m impressed. Pasqua is certainly from the post Herbie Hancock, post Bill Evans school of piano, though his work doesn’t recall too much of those two legends, or any one else for that matter, he’s his own player for sure. He tackles a nice mix of standards and originals, and gives each a very personal touch. The standards, such as You Must Believe in Spring, Body and Soul, and All the Things You Are, hit the sweet spot between playing it too close to the norm, and the “look at how cool my reharmonizations are” gimmicks a lot of players use. There’s an honesty and sophistication to Pasqua’s playing, the sort of thing you hear in only the top players of his instrument, say Kenny Barron or Brad Mehldau. His originals also shine, and add some variety to the program, and perhaps most importantly are melodically compelling. Highly reccomended.

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