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REVIEW ROUND-UP: Alan Pasqua's "The Antisocial Club"

Blowin' our own horn since 1998!

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Alan Pasqua first emerged as keyboardist for legendary drummer Tony Williams’ mid-1970s New Lifetime and has been a busy session player ever since, with a solo career focused largely on acoustic music, including the elegant My New Old Friend (Cryptogramophone, 2005). Still, the outstanding DVD, Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua featuring Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip (Altitude Digital, 2007), proved Pasqua still has the energy and chops for pedal-to-the-metal fusion. The Antisocial Club continues his revived interest in fusion with a terrific group of well and lesser-known players.

Pasqua’s music has its roots in late-1960s-mid-1970s electric Miles, and he couldn’t have chosen a better trumpeter than up-and-comer Ambrose Akinmusire. Just 25, Akinmusire has already built an impressive resume with artists including Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer and Josh Roseman. On the bristling, Spanish-tinged “New Rhodes,” he solos with a Bitches Brew fire, waxing lyrical on the title track’s Latin-esque groove, held firmly in place by Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, drummer Scott Amendola and percussionist Alex Acuña. Saxophonist Jeff Ellwood, another relative youngster, may not have Akinmusire’s recording credentials, but he’s no less impressive on the broodingly propulsive “Wicked Good.”

The group works together far too well to be truly antisocial, but it’s definitely far from polite. While Haslip and Amendola—a drummer capable of everything from balls-out skronk to in-the-pocket funk—are relentlessly grooving, they play with the kind of flat-out energy that makes a greasy tune like “Fast Food” just a little, well, rude. “George Russell” feels cleaner, more like Headhunters-era funk, but at its core is the innovative Lydian Chromatic Concept of its namesake; the undeniable foundation for Pasqua’s Herbie Hancock-inflected acoustic piano solo.

Acoustic musings aside, Pasqua largely favors electric sounds, in particular the gritty, overdriven Rhodes tone of “New Rhodes,” “Fast Food” and “Wicked Good,” which loosely references—but doesn’t imitate—“Bitches Brew,” though at a faster clip. “Prayer” is a tone poem that could easily have fit on Miles’ In a Silent Way, while “Message to Beloved Souls Departed” extrapolates Miles into a more lyrical compositional framework. The entire set possesses more defined form—a focus of Pasqua’s, regardless of context, throughout his career as a leader.

But the ace in the hole that lifts The Antisocial Club into the realm of outstanding is guitarist Nels Cline. Just as John McLaughlin’s rough-edged playing often defined the overall sound of Miles’ electric albums, Cline’s even greater textural diversity expands The Antisocial Club. Cline should be just as important as McLaughlin—equally encyclopedic but even more chameleon-like; but his oftentimes avant leanings preclude the kind of wider acclaim he deserves. He’s no less on-the-edge here, but Pasqua’s largely groove-centric material sometimes grounds Cline while, elsewhere, his extreme playing contributes even greater bite. This may not be a disc for the well-mannered, but those looking for fusion with sharp teeth and a certain political incorrectness would be well advised to join The Antisocial Club. (John Kelman, All About Jazz)

What if Miles Davis had decided to stick with the music of the Bitches Brew/Cellar Door period, circa 1969-1970, and develop within that genre rather than continuing to move in other directions? Perhaps his music would have sounded like Alan Pasqua's The Antisocial Club. The grooves and basslines on the seven originals are reminiscent of Davis' music of the era although the updated electronics, the individual voices, and the spirit of this group differ. Keyboardist Alan Pasqua sounds quite at home in the early-'70s funk/fusion setting, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is a bright new voice on his instrument, and each of the musicians makes strong contributions. While there are solos, the "accompaniment" is so active that most of the music sounds like explosive ensembles. Fans of Miles Davis' music of his early electronics period will find this set to be a brilliant extension on Davis' ideas, and a fresh way of playing fusion. Highly recommended. (Scott Yanow, AllMusic)

Pasqua reignites the jazz flame with this sextet that uses 1970s funk as a starting point. The set also includes some requisite spaciness and a knack for melody amid the beats. The title track is a cool, slinky number that leads to a lip-splattering climax. "George Russell," named for Pasqua's teacher at the New England Conservatory of Music, sounds as if it could be coming out of a 1970s Cadillac. The big bass line sets up some keyboard histrionics. The session is both acidic and spiritual. "Prayer" quivers handsomely without a steady pulse, while "Fast Food" throbs with Jimmy Haslip's bass and Nels Cline's guitar. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonist Jeff Ellwood offer up some heavy horn work on this set that looks forward and backward, and has fun doing it. (Karl Stark, Lexington Herald-Reader)

Keyboardist Alan Pasqua is best known as the keyboards in the second edition of the Tony Williams Lifetime (with Allan Holdsworth), where he performed really well. This album has him playing a lot of Fender Rhodes and is generally 'Milesian' in tone of the sound he was doing in 1969-1971. I don't want to belabor the point, because this has its own sound and charm, but if someone told you that this was a previously unreleased recording from 1973 by, say, members of Miles' groups or Weather Report or Eddie Henderson, etc. etc. etc., for the most part you'd believe it and wonder how something that great managed to be unreleased for so long! Great band too: Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Jeff Ellwood (saxes), Nels Cline (guitars), Jimmy Haslip (bass), Scott Amendola (drums & electronics) and Alex Acuna (percussion). A great fusion album; highly recommended! (Wayside Music)

Pasqua's 1970s stint in Tony Williams' New Lifetime, alongside guitarist Allan Holdsworth, helped set the stage for this assertive effort. Heavily influenced by the fusion-era work of Miles Davis, The Antisocial Club blends In A Silent Way-inspired atmospherics with On The Corner-styled grooves. A radical about-face from My New Old Friend, (Cryptogramophone, 2005), Pasqua's intimate acoustic piano trio session of primarily standard material, this session seethes with buzzing analog electronics and sputtering harsh edges fueled by fulminating vamps.

Alternating between liquid smooth grooves and raspy electronic outbursts, Pasqua and company update classic fusion clichés with ardent commentary and supple lyricism. “Prayer” and “Message To Beloved Souls Departed” represent Pasqua's introspective side, while the Jekyll and Hyde vacillation of the title track and the relentless metallic grind of “Fast Food” showcase a more aggressive aspect. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and saxophonist Jeff Ellwood make a robust frontline, each delivering pithy, circuitous statements on the title track. Pasqua ranges far and wide, delivering euphonious, percussive piano lines that alternate with terse, textural assaults on an overdriven Fender Rhodes. Ubiquitous guitarist Nels Cline contributes wah-wah-fueled blast furnace pyrotechnics on “George Russell” and “Fast Food.” “New Rhodes” and “Wicked Good” knit sinister stop-time pacing and roiling polyrhythmic energy to raucous communal expression.

The Antisocial Club is a high watermark in a growing number of records stylistically indebted to the Dark Prince's seminal electronic period...[The] groove is deep and the funk is nasty. (Troy Collins, All About Jazz)

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