Certain piano trios, like this one, are perfect late-night company. Their musical depth is genuine but understated, unobtrusive. Standards could be called “mood music,” but that description has pejorative connotations. In a sense all music is mood music, and the moods evoked here by Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter and Peter Erskine are complex, even profound. The atmosphere of this album makes harder, faster numbers like “Con Alma” and “Speak Low” contemplative, and evanescent pieces like “It Never Entered My Mind” smolder with sublimated urgency.
This trio’s approach to standards demonstrates unconditional love for the songs, and the confidence to creatively smear them around, like “I’m Old Fashioned.” Sometimes tunes are reduced to just their bones, like “I’m Glad There Is You,” with its bare, reluctant piano chords and brooding bass ostinato. The rapt rendering of “I Could Have Danced All Night” may be the slowest on record.
The recorded sound of this album is extraordinary. It was made with a new vacuum-tube stereo microphone designed by KMF Audio, in a hall renowned for its acoustics, the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California. Two microphones were used, one near the piano and one on the drums. Like the best recordings made with minimalist miking, Standards lets you “see” deep into the soundstage. But unlike so many recordings of this type, it does not sacrifice immediacy and detail. All the implications of Pasqua’s nuanced touch on the piano keys are here, and so are the lightest flickers of Erskine’s brushes.