Live at Rocco
Contained herein is a genuine L.A. story, a happy jazz occasion. No, not the kind of happy jazz-smooth jazz, whatever other euphemism you want to use for elevator hooey-that sometimes gives Los Angeles a bad name. Rather, it's a happy convergence of venue, label and music, documented nicely: Rocco, a hilltop haunt just off Mulholland Drive, is one of this city's finest new venues; Fuzzy Music is drummer Peter Erskine's free-spirited, home-brewed label; and the combined forces of Erskine, pianist Alan Pasqua and bassist Dave Carpenter represent three of the finest, most sensitive players on the Left Coast. On two CDs, dubbed "West Side" and "East Side," they show a strong interactive chemistry, spaciousness and melodic instincts. Pasqua pens nice, unpretentious tunes, including a terse swinger called, for no immediately apparent musical reason, "Jerry Goldsmith" (speaking of L.A.). Erskine's tunes are at once adventurous and lovely ("Life Today") or enigmatically rhythmic ("Bulgaria"). The trio also applies smart sheen to cover songs, whether an expansive take on "How About You?" or "All of You." In all, the album suggests a new West Coast cool, one informed by the Bill Evans tradition and a certain ECM influence, as filtered through Erskine's European trio.
Live at Rocco is a tough beauty in the shadow of Mulholland.