Perennial guitar god Allan Holdsworth and gifted keyboardist Alan Pasqua were key members of late, great polyrhythmic drummer Tony Williams’ New Lifetime quartet and assist with sporting a nouveau outlook while paying homage to the original 1970s outfit. Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and influential drummer Chad Wackerman round out the unit’s energized gait here on this two-disc set culled from a 2007 tour. Sure enough, we are entitled to a formidable squad at work, supported by a crystalline audio transfer from the live environment to disc. Essentially, the music reaches out where the concert experience becomes vividly real.
Tony Williams’ original Lifetime band with bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young is considered a pioneering foray into electric-jazz. But the original LPs Emergency (1969) and Turn It Over (1970) were poorly recorded. Then in 1975, Williams assembled the New Lifetime band, featuring Holdsworth, Pasqua and bassist Tony Newton. On this endeavor, the musicians offer shades of the past with a new wine for old bottles-type characterization, which comes forth as a retro-modern audio spectacle that signifies one of the better-quality fusion albums in recent memory.
As many of us would surmise, the band executes with the utmost synergy and the soloists zoom in for the kill. Wackerman’s distinct style is in full force via his hard-hitting polyrhythmic attack. He even summons remembrances of Williams due to his semi-closed hi-hat shots. Moreover, Holdsworth’s infamous sustain and ascending legato lines add to the dynamic, in line with Pasqua’s meticulously designed acoustic and electric piano jaunts that are engineered with melody and jazzy improv segments. And true to form, Haslip generates the pulsating undercurrent throughout.
Holdsworth’s minor classic "Fred," which appeared on the new Tony Williams Lifetime 1975 album Believe It, is performed amid the spacious and simple hook blithely executed atop Wackerman’s bustling beats. They launch disc two with Holdsworth’s "Looking Glass," which is culled from his 1986 solo album Atavachron, featuring Pasqua’s up-tempo piano solo atop a winding harmony, interspersed with the frontline’s knotty unison phrasings.
The quartet strikes a near flawless balance, comprised of lyrically induced sentiment and ferocious chops, all amalgamated into a radiant sheen that reemphasizes the positive aspects of jazz-fusion. The artists’ project an open-air-like presentation that isn’t shrouded with meandering riffs or excessive soloing escapades. They tighten up for explosive choruses and generate a capacious forum during many bridge passages, as it all sounds like this event was meant to be.