7 September 2007 — For keyboardist Alan Pasqua, innovation remains a major part of his ever-inventive career. Pasqua’s newest release, The Antisocial Club, finds him in cutting-edge form as he leads a rock-solid band through seven originals that allude to the history of electric jazz even as they find new ways and new plays with the material. His first album since 2005’s trio jazz album My New Old Friend, Pasqua returns playing true to form with an outstanding group that features Nels Cline on guitars, Scott Amendola on drums, Alex Acuna on percussion, bassist Jimmy Haslip and the fresh talents of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and Jeff Elwood on saxophones.
The range of music to be heard on The Antisocial Club suggests a revisiting of, especially, the music of Miles Davis, alluding to 1969’s In A Silent Way at points but also including hints at Davis’ later work as well. (From the same early period, Herbie Hancock and his Mwandishi music appear scattered here and there.) But for Pasqua fans, his music clearly speaks to much of today’s plugged-in jazz scene. Take, for example, the perky, almost danceable “George Russell.” Here, Pasqua’s unique blend of acoustic and electronic keyboards mingles with the funky bottom created by Haslip and an insistent horn arrangement, only to take off in a new direction, courtesy of Cline’s messy, artful guitar work. Unique arrangement, unique attitude, captivating playing.
Indeed, Pasqua’s arrangements are set up to highlight the playing mastery of each musician on The Antisocial Club. For example, Akinmusire and Elwood offer up expressive, engaging solos on the forceful funk of “Fast Food” and the mysterious, cinematic “Wicked Good,” respectively. (Pasqua’s Rhodes work on the latter is a highlight of The Antisocial Club.) And then there are the estimable Yellowjackets anchor Haslip and label mates Cline and Amendola, who provide the riveting beat that permeates so much of The Antisocial Club. As for Pasqua and his musical contributions beyond writing and arranging, just give a listen to the opening title track for a taste of the raucous and sublime, all in one solo. Overall, the fevered pitch that starts The Antisocial Club, so much a part of this music, is nurtured and directed by the keyboardist’s seasoned leadership in the studio.
Perhaps best known for his work with the late drum legend Tony Williams in a later version of Williams’ groundbreaking Lifetime band (this edition with guitarist Alan Holdsworth), Pasqua’s career has also included significant forays with Jack DeJohnette, Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana, Joe Henderson, Dave Holland, Michael Brecker and Ray Charles, to name but a few.
After his stint with Williams’ Lifetime band, Pasqua moved to Los Angeles during the 1980s, where he became better known in rock and pop circles, in addition to doing movie and television soundtrack work. Collaborating with such big names as Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, Dave Grusin and John Williams, Pasqua was able to broaden his musical palette significantly. Pasqua is also known for his contributions to jazz education as an assistant professor in Jazz Studies at The Flora L. Thornton School of Music, The University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Pasqua continues to record in a variety of settings. His previous Cryptogramophone release, My New Old Friend, was a trio recording that featured bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine.