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January/February 2008

Alan Pasqua
The Antisocial Club
Cryptogramophone

Alan Pasqua’s previous recording (Standards, on Fuzzy Music) was a very subtle (and very fine) acoustic piano trio album. The Antisocial Club is not acoustic and not subtle. Whether you think it is fine depends on how you feel about a particular aesthetic, exemplified by early electric Miles and Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi albums.

It is possible that this album will make some converts in the acoustic community of electric-jazz naysayers. While it has much that they dislike about fusion—the heavy repetitive rhythms (one man’s groove is another’s monotony), the electric keyboard twitterings and splashes that fill every cranny of available musical space, the indulgent, grandiose hooks—it also contains elements that most fusion lacks. Among these are brains, creativity, adventurousness and real solos.

Pasqua writes cool little tunes and arranges them into large, dynamically diverse concepts that provide openings for the strong voices in his ensemble. Guitarist Nels Cline pleasingly trashes “George Russell” in wild quivers and squeals. Jeff Ellwood’s soprano saxophone whirls in a dizzying dervish on the title track, and releases into an exhilarating, shrieking catharsis on “Wicked Good.” On “Prayer,” reminiscent of Miles’ In a Silent Way, Ambrose Akinmusire’s long, pure trumpet lines melt into and out of the ambient stasis. But Pasqua is the leader, and in the sheer density of information that is this album, his various keyboards provide the content that is the nastiest, the funkiest, the most lyrical and the most startling.

Originally published in January/February 2008
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