Alan Pasqua's My New Old Friend is mostly a set of sensitive and relaxed trio improvisations. Pasqua, bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine, three of the top jazz musicians based in Los Angeles, perform subtle reshapings of five standards which alternate with six of Pasqua's generally introspective originals. One is reminded of Bill Evans (particularly on the standards) in Pasqua's sophisticated chord voicings and the close interplay of the musicians, but that is only a point of reference rather than a direct copy. However fans of Evans' treatments of ballads will certainly enjoy this accessible and thoughtful effort.
Alan Broadbent has long been appreciated as a fine pianist and arranger, talents he combines on this studio effort with bassist Brian Bromberg and drummer Kendall Kay, along with background color by the Tokyo Strings. "Autumn Variations" is a superb workout of the chord changes to the standard "Autumn Leaves." The pianist's lyrical setting of the longing ballad "Bess, Oh Where's My Bess" and the sparse treatment of "Last Night When We Were Young" are simply masterful. Broadbent's scoring of notable jazz compositions proves to be equally effective. He sets up a very deliberate tempo for the ballad "Lover Man," alternating the piano and the strings in the foreground as the rhythm section plays sparingly. But his best effort may be his lush arrangement of the modal masterpiece "Blue in Green."
Unfortunately, Alan Shorter didn't get the chance to lead very many sessions. The limited commercial potential of his music – coupled with a rather unhealthy lifestyle – limited him to only a couple of titles under his own name and a dozen or so as a sideman. Like perhaps Eric Dolphy or Albert Ayler, though, the dates upon which he only played a supporting role still heavily bear his stylistic stamp. On this, the last of his leader dates, Shorter's compositions employ relatively vague stutter-step heads and then quickly dive right into free improvisation without looking back. What follows is free jazz along the lines of many BYG or ESP releases from the same era.
The Time Machine by Alan Parsons actually features very little musical input from Parsons himself, who produced and engineered the album. No matter, because this concept album about the passage of time – and the triumphs, mistakes, regrets, and memories associated with it – is Parsons' best work of the '90s…
On this focused and passionate record, Alan Pasqua is joined by bassist Dave Holland and drummer Paul Motian – two players with stellar reputations who don't appear together often. Motian's post-'70s playing tends to be free and fragmented, but he approaches Pasqua's material with a straight-ahead sense of swing. The leader, for his part, became known as a synth player following his work with the Tony Williams Lifetime in the late '70s, but here his playing and writing are closer to acoustic post-boppers like Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Barron.