Mario Pavone Dialect Trio - Philosophy

Label: Clean Feed, 2019

Personnel - Matt Mitchell: piano; Mario Pavone: double bass; Tyshawn Sorrey : drums.


At the age of 79, American avant-garde bassist Mario Pavone is not interested in slowing down and both productivity and innovation are kept as two determinant factors in his career. For this year’s Clean Feed release, Philosophy, he reunites with the two freedom seekers and revered bandleaders that compose his Dialect Trio, namely, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. All three form a democratic alliance whose tensile creativity is immediately mirrored on the lead-off track, “8-18-18”, a brand new Pavone composition that hangs loose, coiling Mitchell’s acerbic clusters and zigzagging motions, Sorey’s swift and precise brushwork, and bass rambles shrouded in ambiguity but never indecision.

The trio settles upon swing and groove all the way through on the title track, with Sorey and Pavone underpinning with gusto the motivic bop spins of the pianist, and “Two Thirds Radial”, a Monk-ish crotchet permeated with gorgeous riffs and slippery angularity. The latter tune was previously recorded, appearing in Pavone’s album Vertical (Clean Feed, 2017), just like “Iskmix”, a motivic statement with tricky additive meter, whose first release wings back to 2008, to the masterpiece record Ancestors (Playscape Recordings). Naturally, they both resurface here with new looks and textures.

Everything There Is” is a spontaneous improvisation credited to the trio, which skews into a controlled centrifugation. Yet, I found them at their most investigative on two renditions of Annette Peacock’s tunes, “Circles” and “The Beginning”. The former, a ballad multiple times tackled by Paul Bley in the past, unscrambles any complexity and features the solitary bass in a minimalist sequence, while the latter invites us to get lost in the noisy atonalities of its short course. It feels like jumping into a big vortex full of small whirls inside.

Pavone’s “Noka” introduces a bit more roundness in its lines, setting the pace out of the work in tandem from bass and piano, which is complemented with Sorey’s speaking drums. However, Mitchell, as an inveterate off-center explorer, grittily seeks alternative routes.

Philosophy follows a smartly designed architecture that besides other benefits, ensures that no tune is overextended. It reinforces with new music what this trailblazing piano trio can offer.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Philosophy ► 04 - The Beginning ► 07 - Iskmix

Mario Pavone - Vertical

Label/Year: Clean Feed, 2017

Lineup – Tony Malaby:  saxophones; Oscar Noriega: clarinets; Dave Ballou: trumpet; Peter McEachern: trombone; Mario Pavone: bass; Michael Sarin: drums.

The adventurous American bassist Mario Pavone has been a reference in the avant-garde jazz scene for four decades, and his latest work, Vertical, bursts with exceptionally odd grooves, sparkling interwoven melodies, and exciting improvisations, for another significant entry in a very much respected discography.

To play this set of 11 original compositions, he convened a robust four-horn frontline that includes Tony Malaby on saxophones, Oscar Noriega on clarinets, Dave Ballou on trumpet, and Peter McEachern on trombone. Teaming up with him in the rhythm section is the drummer Michael Sarin, a longtime collaborator, who earned the drummer's chair once again. 

Ellipse”, a fantastically orchestrated piece, delivers stunning moments with Pavone’s bass and Noriega’s bass clarinets in a tight unison and counterpointing to the horns’ serpentine movements. The improvisational sections were assigned to Malaby, whose centrifugal rhythmic ideas effortlessly germinated from his soprano with a melting sound, and Ballou, more cerebral in his approach but boasting a brittle vibrancy.

Start Oval” follows the same orientation, but via an enchanting 4/4 groove that makes us tap our feet and then jump for a wild dance. Ballou elevates his sound to the heavens and welcomes the company of Malaby, who never stops to amaze with inventiveness, and McEachern, who adds fuel to the flames.

The title track feels half-floating half-imperial in its initial subdued tones. A beautiful bass ostinato glues to the drummer’s steady tempo while horn unisons slide on top of this configuration. Pavone unties his bass lace, embracing freedom during Malaby and Noriega's improvised talks.

Suitcase in Savannah”, a stirring piece recuperated from the 2015 album Blue Dialect, diverges from “Broken”, a Sun Ra-like safari, as well as from the shortest piece on the record, “Blue Drum”, which is dominated by Sarin’s colorful brushwork and complemented with Pavone’s hopping notes in a matching communion with the horns in consonance.
Animated with transitive melodic asymmetries, frequent rhythm syncopations, and collective improvisations, “Cube Code” is a rollercoaster drop that also features an explorative bass solo by the bandleader. He delivers another great one on “Two Thirds Radial”, which swings with sharp focus and is rounded off by another piquant solo, beautifully cooked by Noriega, who thanks his horn mates for filling with a few winding moves.

With so much thrilling intensities, the band decided to refrain the impetus with an Ellingtonian brassy ballad called “Axis Legacy”, in which Malaby explores several timbres on the tenor.

Pavone’s music lives in constant expansion and contraction, always searching for flexible points that serve as an escape to change direction or mood, and then, returning to the base where the lines are closed. So, no wonder that many of the tunes carry geometric shapes or symmetry-related words in their titles.

Pavone sounds fresher than ever and his compositional competence, privileging free improvisation within well-established structural blocks, remains highly appealing.

        Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
03 – Start Oval ► 07 – Cube Code ► 09 – Two Thirds Radial

Mario Pavone - Blue Dialect

Mario Pavone: double bass; Matt Mitchell: piano; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Mario Pavone, a robust bassist with guts to wing it, returns to the trio format (after the successful Nu Trio and Arc Trio), this time in the company of the pianist Matt Mitchell and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey.
Pavone creates his usual throbbing grooves, often resorting to a shifting, abstract, and yet swinging walking bass, and showing his magnificent sense of tempo. The combustible and frequently disruptive drumming of Sorey follows him everywhere with technique, great style, and a strong purpose of making this trio sound good. And they succeed, also because Mitchell is in the same mood, building silky non-linear textures and exquisite harmonies that are fun to listen to.
Replete of charisma and planned discontinuities, the trio plays eight original compositions by the leader (“Xapo”, “Zines”, “Silver Print”, and “Language” were already recorded on previous albums) and a lucid rendering of “Reflections” by Monk.  
When everyone speaks the same dialect, the communication becomes effortless and fluid. That’s what happens in the homogeneous “Blue Dialect”.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Suitcase in Savannah ► 02 – Xapo ► 09 – Blue