Keyboardist Alan Pasqua, 66, rose to prominence in the mid-1970s as part of drummer Tony Williams’ Lifetime, one of several visionary ensembles led by alumni of Miles Davis’ bands. The only reason the Fender Rhodes specialist didn’t achieve wider name recognition was probably that he came along a few years after Davis graduated the Mount Rushmore of jazz/fusion keyboardists: Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett.
Pasqua’s 25-year recording career as a leader, with the exception of the explosive 2009 Williams ode Blues for Tony with former Lifetime guitarist Allan Holdsworth, has largely been acoustic. His new solo piano outing, Soliloquy, features nine standards and one peek back in time, albeit toward one of his former popular-music employers, in Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country.”
Recorded at his Santa Monica, Calif., home studio, Soliloquy largely avoids the ho-hum trappings of a working vacation. Its pensive opener, the Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein composition “Hello Young Lovers” (from the musical The King and I), blends Rodgers’ melody and Hammerstein’s lyricism without vocals. Pasqua also takes chestnuts from Duke Ellington (“I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” “In a Sentimental Mood”) and George Gershwin (“Embraceable You”) into third-stream territory through his blend of jazz and classical technique.
A few pieces have reaches that exceed their grasp—Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom,” Rodgers’ “Isn’t It Romantic,” and the Dylan composition—but Soliloquy finishes strong. Pasqua gives the 1966 Johnny Mandel/Paul Francis Webster ballad “A Time for Love” simultaneous right-hand romanticism and left-hand muscle, and closes with a singing rendition of the World War II-era standard “There Are Such Things,” popularized by Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra.