Click here to [close]

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Mario Pavone - Blue Vertical (Out of Your Head, 2021) *****

By Ron Coulter

Blue Vertical is a posthumous release from bassist, Mario Pavone (1940-2021) and his Dialect Trio + 1. The +1 here is trumpeter, Dave Ballou joining the trio of Pavone, Matt Mitchell (piano), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums).

Dialect Trio has been working together since 2014 and that history is apparent in their playing, as the group has developed a distinct musical dialect that is most apparent in their concept of time (periodic/in-tempo and aperiodic/free). They have a beguiling way of eliding into and out of a unified tempo into free playing or multiple, simultaneous tempi. They do this so smoothly, so fluidly, that the development is often unnoticeable; at moments the listener is left unsure of what is in-tempo and what is free, not to mention what is in between. The album’s final track, 'Face Music,' showcases the organic nature of the group’s approach to time, with very patient free playing, polytemporal playing, and moments of in-time playing from two or three members converging to a single tempo…or perhaps that is an assessment of hindsight and it’s just four great musicians improvising together at the highest of levels.

Six of the tracks on this record use the traditional jazz form of head/solos/head as their basic structure. The opening track, 'Twardzik' is a clear example of this, where the constrained playing of an angular, composed melody abruptly drops into beautifully organic improvising led by Pavone’s low, rich bass lines. The track concludes with a restatement of the melody following an open drum solo. 'Philosophy Series' utilizes the same form and features a churning bass line worthy of mention.

The second track, 'OKWA' is a fine example of this group’s ability to move almost indistinguishably from composed material to improvised material and from a single tempo into free playing and back again with ease and total continuity.

The final two tracks on the album, 'Legacy Stories' and 'Face Music' appear to be freely improvised with no composed elements. 'Legacy Stories' starts free and develops into medium-up swing with interruptions of free playing and ultimately resolves into a medium swing groove that dissolves back into free playing. 'Face Music' presents as ballad-like, becomes pointalistic and then briefly develops into one of the most rhythmically dense textures on the album.

'Blue Poles' is unique on the album with its very short composed melody (three bars of 4/4 or six seconds in length) played in unison by all four players that is stated once at the beginning of the track and never restated. This track also demonstrates Pavone’s playful and tricky use of rhythmic displacement audible within the first few seconds of in-time improvisation after the short melodic statement.

It must be noted that the sound quality of this album is superb. The audio capture, mixing, and mastering is excellent, making it a pleasure to return to for repeated listenings.

Ultimately, this is a fascinating and highly enjoyable record, finely created, from the audio production to the compositions, arrangements, and especially the improvising. It is another high quality release from Out of Your Head Records, which showcases striking artwork on each album it releases–Blue Vertical is no exception. The beauty of this record is the ensemble playing, which is creative music making of careful listening, empathy, and deft reflexivity. Listening to this record is like eavesdropping on a casual conversation between old friends where there is much more than just the words heard–there is a deep history and understanding there too.

For listeners that may be new to Pavone’s work, this is the kind of album that will compel them to search out more of his recordings, as well as more work from the Dialect Trio and Dave Ballou. This is also the kind of album that will seduce those unfamiliar with creative music to fall in love with it.