On the inside cover of My New Old Friend, pianist Alan Pasqua writes that the music is intended to give the listener "a place to rest for a while." This new disc from the veteran is delicately presented to be sure, as subtlety is the key principal at work throughout the set. Joined by bassist Darek Oles and the always tasteful Peter Erskine, Pasqua offers few technical displays. Rather, the listener is presented with simple peaceful music that often gets its depth from what is left unsaid.
Like the master Miles Davis, Pasqua chooses to give us space where there could be flutter. Oles and Erskine add to the mood, which is like a late night filled with quiet reflection. This may come as a surprise to those who remember Pasqua as an electric fusion player from years past. Yet Pasqua's jazz roots are deep, having been a college mate of Erskine and having studied with Jaki Byard, among others. Living in Los Angeles today and being a studio player has contributed to his lack of recognition in some jazz circles.
Three of the eleven compositions are jazz standards, two are pop standards, and the other six are Pasqua's own. The title cut is an excellent microcosm of what the set offers. The enchanting melody is framed by discreet chord changes which lightly evolve as the song unfolds. Opening with Pasqua outlining the structure, Oles provides a resourceful solo and Erskine does his usual magic with brushes. Pasqua then leads the trio through the mist as the tune winds to its resolution.
Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" is seldom heard in this context. With these players it fits like fur-lined slippers. The melody is there, presented without superfluous touches that might distract from the original feel of the song. Pasqua's "Stick Slap," one of the disc's liveliest presentations, gives Erskine a chance to shine. The bouncy melody and Latin feel open the way for a beautifully restrained drum interlude using cow bell and the rest of the kit. It perfectly illustrates the maturity evident in Erskine's work.
"Highway" could be from a movie soundtrack. The bass line underpins a floating melody, further highlighted by scant background vocals sans lyrics. Pasqua delicately punctuates the tune before the vocals rejoin the group to restate the melodic line, and the tune seems to melt away. "All The Things You Are" is proffered in somewhat traditional format, yet the melody is largely implied. All three players take solos on this one, drums and piano trading breaks towards the end.
The recording quality is very good and appropriate for a piano-led trio. Pasqua's voice is out front in the mix, bass and drums slightly behind. Instruments sound as they should, and with good stereo equipment you will be amply pleased. This may be the best disc I have recently heard for people who think jazz is too busy and pointless. Expose your curious friends to this one and they just might thank you!
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