With its expressive instrumental palette, double-clutching rock
beats, painterly ensemble textures and mercurial rhythms, electric jazz
of the '70s has become a seductive nostalgia the past few years,
especially among young musicians who didn't live through the era. So
who better to jump on the bandwagon than one who did - Los Angeles
keyboard man Alan Pasqua, who played sizzling jazz/rock fusion with
Tony Williams' Lifetime and guitarist Allan Holdsworth?
The Antisocial Club
is a fresh and dynamic disc, charged with honest emotion and a loose
eclecticism that nods to electric Miles Davis. The most direct homage
(to "In A Silent Way") comes on "Prayer," which starts with shifting
clouds that slowly condense into pools of sound, as the faraway trumpet
of Ambrose Akinmusire floats the melody. But the mission is no secret
from the start, as electric bassist Jimmy Haslip launches the title
tune with the four-note vamp of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," albeit in
an altered harmonic setting and at a dreamy, mysterious tempo.
Russell," named for a Pasqua mentor, takes a funkier path. "New Rhodes"
wraps wah-wah guitar, dirty electric piano, a bass vamp and soaring
trumpet around a backbeat. "Fast Food" (very '80s Miles) sails outside,
with gristle guitar and a warbling, out-of-the-key Middle Eastern line.
"Wicked Good" grooves with suspense, and "Message to Beloved Souls
Departed" chants a hymn for the dead.
Solo-wise, Pasqua delivers
fluid, clinking Fender Rhodes lines as well as spiraling,
chirpy-to-throaty synth and limpid acoustic piano. A nice surprise is
the big tone, muscular phrasing and high-range accuracy of young
trumpeter Akinmusire. Scronks, scribbles and gurgles by the brilliant
guitarist Nels Cline (and drummer Scott Amendola, on electronics), as
well as tasteful percussion by Alex Acuna, are central to the
mysterioso ensemble texture, though Cline's Holdsworth-like solo on
"George Russell" pushes into the self-important grandiosity of much
The sense of looking backward is symptomatic, for in spite of its freewheeling attitude, The Antisocial Club is still quite inside the box formally - in the end, it's well-made music cast from a tried and true mold. - by Paul de Barros