Calling Mario Pavone's Double Orange Tenor arc suite t/pi t/po commodity jazz is hardly meant to be an insult (unless you're offended by he notion of such a cleve) because as far as commodity jazz concerned, this is as good as it comes. Yet clever arrangements with latin sections, well crafted solos with themes, variations and other well loved compositional elements have an ability to asphyxiate in our post-Coltrane day, despite the level of craft and dedication required in their realization. Excellence now a days brings with it an anonymity that the leaves one wanting for some imprecision or reckless asymmetry to re-connect the music with the human experience.
That is my predjudice, anyway. For everyone else, lovers of Tony Malaby's work on the many other releases where he can be heard have every reason to continue loving him on Double Orange Tenor. Juxtaposed against Malaby is Jimmy Green (also on tenor saxophone). Green, like Malaby (and Jerry Bergonzi and Chris Potter and Donny McCaslin and Bill Evans the late Michael Brecker and the late Bob Berg and all the many many others I have neglected to mention) can, at times, give one the feeling that in exchange for total control over tonal harmony (as commonly understood in the jazz commodity market) a harmonic addiction has developed. I'm not talking about screeching noises either; Double Orange Tenor is simply steeped, rooted and unashamed of its relationship to consonance and voice leading. The deeply embattled tradition is safe here.
Dave Ballou plays with invention and elasticity. His solo on West of Crash stands out both in invention and (particularly) when juxtaposed against here-comes-the-choo-choo-train onomatopoetics of the tune largely realized by the consistently solid and yet surprisingly stayed team of Peter Madsen on piano and Gerald Clever on drums.
Pavone plays perfectly well, and does so with a beautiful tone. Certainly you've all heard Pavone's work with Dixon and know that quality of bass sonority was a constant concern in Dixon's work. Pavone's playing on Dixon's Son of Sisyphus etches his name in the Book of Bass for all of time. That side of Pavone's aesthetic is given brief expression on Half Dome (for Bill Dixon) and Dome—the two non “chang changa chang” numbers on the CD. Their marked difference from the rest of the pieces makes them seem like jagged stones of onyx and jet set against a ring of colorful machine cut rhinestones. Not that there's anything wrong with rhinestones—and really, if you can listen to the entire recording in one sitting, the effect is remarkable. If that was the intent, a clearer celebration of Dixon the sui generis has yet to emerge. That said, my guess is more people are going to wonder why Pavone ruined an otherwise perfectly good (and occasionally inspiring) “jazz” recording than wonder why two pieces of interest were set amidst such familiar predictability.
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