This group appears to have roots in the romantic piano trio sounds that developed in the '60s at the hands of Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Denny Zeitlin and Herbie Hancock. Pianist Alan Pasqua's harmonies establish the atmosphere, with bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Peter Erskine displaying finely tuned sensitivity behind him. If some of the tracks on Badlands sound new agey at first, they usually evolve into more interesting jazz fare later.
The opener "Surrender," by Pasqua, is a pastoral, hymnlike invocation with chords that go in unexpected directions. The harmonic mood brightens slightly on "Daddy, What Is God's Last Name?" the second tune, also by the pianist. The liner gates finally open on "Push/Pull," his third tune, as walking bass, wiry piano lines (punctuated by clipped, spare chords in the left hand) and the stronger presence of drums come into play. This, Carpenter's "Boogie Shuttle Stop" and the Dietz/Schwartz standard "You and the Night and the Music" are the most energetic performances. Carpenter's "Summer's Waltz" hints at Evans, and the title track, another Pasqua composition, suggests a meadow more than the rough terrain of the title.
Quiet communication, nuance and beauty guide these performances. If Erskine is the leader (his name appears first on the cover and the release is on his label), then he shows admirable restraint for a drummer. Badlands has lovely atmospheric performances with a little patina of new age.