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Alan Pasqua: Lifetime's Aglow, A (non) Antisocial Interaction

By Published: February 18, 2008
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The Acoustic Alan Pasqua

AAJ: Fair enough. And then, just to take the next step of trying to make an A/B comparison of that against your acoustic piano trio or ensemble type records is just...

AP: It's like my career [laughs], you know, playing in Bob Dylan's band and then doing this. It's just a whole different thing—it's just eclectic—I'm lucky, because growing up I was just able to play a lot of different kinds of music. I'm fortunate that I've been put with other musicians who've done the same—like my association with Peter Erskine. Those piano trio records they're so special also, because of the cats I'm playing with.

Alan Pasqua AAJ: That last one on Crypto, My New Old Friend (2005)—that's a special record. Some of the familiar tunes—talk about surprisingly familiar tunes, I mean they'll bring a tear—that version of "Wichita Lineman" and especially "Smile," where you get it to the point of being able to hit almost any tone cluster on the downbeat of where that word, "Smile" occurs in the lyric...

AP: We like playing slow tunes at slow tempos. That tune came about that way because playing it I realized it has a natural transposition point in it towards the end of the lyric. It wants to go to another key. So I explored the next key and thought, "OK, I'll play it in this key." When I got to the end of it in that key I was in yet another, but when I got to the end of that one, I was actually back in the first key, just very naturally. It's an augmented triad and it keeps cycling around. So "Smile" is like "Giant Steps" in that way. It's all based on that augmented chord.

AAJ: As a listener, and maybe we should do a straw poll on this, but every time you hit that key change every muscle in my body relaxed [laughs].

AP: Ahh, good [laughs].

AAJ: It has a physical effect—very cool stuff. So, I hate to reference other players or be facile, but it has a space about it, a church-like thing that's very much like a Keith Jarrett record.

AP: No man—don't hate to say that. That's like a giant compliment. Keith is an unbelievable influence on tone production and concept and spirit.

AAJ: So much of the record is down-tempo, languid or slow. But some of the lines themselves, like the runs you get off on "All the Things" have ridiculous chops and velocity to them.

AP: I'm more interested in melody—it means more to me I guess. That's why I write those kinds of tunes, in addition to the non-originals I choose.

AAJ: That recording—the sound quality itself—is incredible as well. I know some of the other things you've done with Peter, the Fuzzy Music things, were out of his home studio.

AP: My New Old Friend was done at Conway, in LA. We did Badlands (Fuzzy Music, 2002) in Peter's home studio, Live at Rocco (Fuzzy Music, 2000) was at the club and we have a new one called Standards (Fuzzy Music, 2007) that we've done live in a theatre down in San Diego with two stereo tube microphones—kind of an interesting concept to record.

AAJ: The sound on My New Old Friend just adds to the pristine nature of the whole concept.

AP: I think part of what you're responding to there is the piano sound. I took my piano to the studio to record that one. I'm so lucky I have this amazing instrument so instead of using the studio piano and having to deal with that thing and have it tuned correctly—I just called some movers and had them bring my piano over there. I have a Yamaha S6—it's a special handmade piano. They modeled it after a Hamburg Steinway with a very warm sound. Yamaha typically sounds brighter but this thing has a lot of warm and fuzzy to it. I didn't use it on any of my other records, but I did use it on the last track of Antisocial, "Message to Beloved Souls Departed."

AAJ: A beautiful tune. And that other one—"Prayer"—beautiful breakers-up of the frenzy.

AP: You need to have that, at least I do, or else the frenzy doesn't mean anything. I can get that shit anytime I want just by going out and sitting on the freeway [laughs].

AAJ: Regarding "Highway 14," I'd like to ask, as a bassist, how that came about. You rarely hear acoustic bass used that way in a classic piano trio setting, where the whole song is really based off a very lyrical, arching, repeating ostinato.

Alan Pasqua AP: It's like a cello line, and Darek [bassist Darek "Oles" Oleszkiewicz] is so incredible because he plays so in tune that I can write something like that and he can play it. That line is doubled on piano so it becomes a different sound than just the acoustic bass. It doesn't sound off, or weird, or even slightly different because his pitch is so scary.

AAJ: That is such a different tune on that record.

AP: Thanks, you know Kurt Elling covered that on his latest record. He put lyrics to it and re-titled it "And We Will Fly." It's on his latest Concord release.

AAJ: I'll bet you not too many people know that.

AP: They will now

AAJ: Did he consult you on that?

AP: Oh yeah, he called and asked. I was like, "Yeah, are you kidding me?"

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