Pianist Alan Pasqua’s latest album, “Soliloquy,” is as inspired as it is quietly beautiful. There are plenty of jazz albums to offer swinging and rollicking renditions of classics, or that even present originals of that same kind. “Soliloquy” is not one of them. The piano is used to great advantage to create a gentle, but somehow intensely present soundscape for listeners to consider how the songs function as the album’s title.
The temptation to describe albums such as “Soliloquy” as “understated” is great. To do so would also be inaccurate. Each song has its own personality, but there are style turns that Pasqua makes that lets listeners know that the creations, even when the songs are cover tunes, their arrangements are Pasqua’s ideas.
Instead of being understated, the work on the album is classic and spirited, with a hint of melancholy. There is a touch of mid-century and early 20th century charm to the songs, even though the overall approach is modern and decidedly un-fussy. Audiences are likely to enjoy the album more if they do not have too many preconceived ideas about what will happen on the album. Instead, they should prepare to be pleasantly surprised by what Pasqua offers.
About Alan Pasqua
After listening to “Soliloquy,” it would surprise almost no one that Pasqua had a background in both jazz and pop. The longtime pianist has played with Bob Dylan (for two albums), Starship, Carlos Santana and John Fogerty.
Pasqua is considered a piano legend. He has a musical career that involves playing in a host of ensembles and serving as band leader.
Some of Pasqua’s work includes playing as part of a trio on the Grammy-nominated album “Standards,” with Paul Erskine and Dave Carpenter. Pasqua’s other recent releases include “Twin Bill,” in which he plays the music of Bill Evans on two pianos, and “Northern Lights,” which features Pasqua’s original songs and showcase his abilities in the realms of classical, jazz and pop.
The sound of “Soliloquy”
Attempts to describe the work overall creates contradictions. It is “smooth” without having been created in the “smooth jazz” tradition as many conceive of it. It is relaxing, but maintains urgency.
Maybe the reason for the complex feel of the album is Pasqua’s instrumentation. He plays alone- – just himself and a piano. This isn’t unheard of, but it works well here. The way each chord is expressed can vary and present a variety of moods.
Pasqua seems to be a master of lush chords that run quickly into the next set of notes in a way that might remind some people of a breathless romantic encounter.
Even the name of the album is intimate. A soliloquy in theater is when a character reveals private thoughts without consideration of an audience of theatergoers or other cast members. Here, Pasqua seems intent to show his penchant for beautifully arranged notes for piano. The performance featuring Pasqua and his Hamburg piano is intimate and personal.
“Soliloquy” contains all cover songs, but Pasqua makes them all sound as if they were written for him, and even by him. There are no awkward moments, each note is played with skill and deliberation. Audiences might come to “Soliloquy” for the Bob Dylan cover, but they will stay for all the other, more traditional tunes.