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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mario Pavone - Arc Suite T/Pi T/Po (Playscape, 2010) ***

By Stanley Zappa

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.

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef


Unknown said...

A very interesting and perceptive review. I heard a recording of this Suite done live, and I had the same reaction as the reviewer, that it was very well-crafted but ultimately a little dull.

As far as Malaby goes, he's probably wasted here, but I wouldn't lump him with Berg or Brecker. I think he's much more expressive and interesting.

Unknown said...

Could we get some background information on the new folks who are reviewing here?

Anonymous said...

What is commodity jazz, did you invent that term yourself? Please write about the music. I want to read two paragraphs that situate the music in the artist's ouvre and in the contemporary context. Don't introduce other people not on the record whose music I do not know.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading after the first paragraph. Sigh. Steph come back!

Unknown said...

I thought the reviewer did an excellent job of situating the music within a contemporary context.

Anonymous said...

"Don't introduce other people not on the record whose music I do not know."

Isn't better to know what you don't know than to know what you know?

Cosmo Vitelli said...

as you sayd, prejudices play a big role in critics and your essay's a monument of those. From the beginning You play the old snobbish point of you 'the freer the better', totally wrong with 360° musicians as Pavone. Yes, Pavone played with Dixon and Braxton amd others, yet in his own recordings from Chapin on always evolved a peculiar, muscular, modern yet solidly kinetic, swingin music you do not have to be fond of as I am. He is closer to Threadgill than Dixon under this folkish rhythmic sensibilities.

Canada said...

My daughter and I were introduced to Choo Choo Soul through the Disney Channel. She would ask the see the music videos again and again. It really got her dancing.