Very, very few jazz bassists can cover the range that Mario Pavone swings on Orange. It's not a matter of expansive tonal color, which doesn't seem to particularly interest him much, but a relationship with the notes themselves, and especially the way they are put together. Modern jazz can be real tricky these days when it comes to figuring out how much of a piece is composed versus improvisedwhether or not it's led by a trickster like Mario Pavone. In the case of the trios and quintets that make up Orange (add or subtract the horns), things are never obvious.
Funk, swing, hard bop, out jazz, or the great beyond... take it all the way, and mix it well while you're on the road. I guess "modern" is the word, but hasn't that always been a dangerous way of decribing things? Pianist Peter Madsen, a bit inhibited until recently, throws out deliciously edgy swirls of notes on the epic "Sky Tango." Steven Bernstein, a trickster himself who has pried his (slide or regular) trumpet into all sorts of messes, delivers a very soulful message alongside Tony Malaby on the "Burnt Sweet" title piece, insistently focusing on the root. That's just a signal for Pavone to leap right into a groovy eight-note figurethe melody, in factriffing way off into the distance with the horns floating above. The turn of momentum here is composed for sure, and for that little trick we owe Pavone a smile. As the music progresses downstream on the record, Bernstein continues to thrust with saxophonist Tony Malaby.
Just in case you thought things would ever settle down, check out the introduction to "Box in Orange," where Pavone tiptoes briefly through a minefield of tiny intervals, only to join up with a swinging blues jam. Peter Madsen waxes somewhere between Monkish angularity, Jarrett-esque regularity, and his own personal atonal flood state. In this case, Pavone just can't build the same energy when he takes over the solo slot, despite a valiant effort.
But that's a rare exception. Mario Pavone deserves a position of deep respect because he has always focused on structures that are just loose enough to be ambiguous. You just have to listen to get it. You have to fall off to get back on. It's a ride.
Personnel: Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Steven Bernstein: trumpet and slide trumpet; Peter Madsen: piano;
Mario Pavone: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.