For those of us who need a little structure in this chaotic world, bassist, composer, and bandleader Mario Pavone offers Orange, with offerings from his Quintet and Nu (piano) Trio. And while these tunes keep chaos at bay with tightly composed melodies, chaos is given its due through the exciting and risky soloing of the musicians.
The opening cut, “Blue Rex,” demonstrates the influence of the second classic Miles Davis Quintet on this group and features Steven Bernstein soloing on trumpet with steely exactitude. On “Triple Diamond,” a trio piece, Pavone’s bass is meaty, doing more than merely keeping time by embellishing the melody and exhorting pianist Peter Madsen to bound up and down the keys.
Bernstein and saxophonist Tony Malaby travel parallel lines on “Drop Op,” a tune that would be exceptional live where the two men might be tempted to cut each other from either side. Bernstein’s swaggering sensibility dominates “Burnt Sweet Orange,” as Pavone’s bass bubbles and pops in support, and “Goorootoo” inspires Malaby’s freest soloing on the disc. If poetry is the dialogue we have with ourselves, then Malaby’s introverted, implosive playing is remarkable free verse.
The music of the Nu Trio overflows with creative energy, and Madsen and Pavone pass the lead back and forth to each other, notes from the piano coming in a downpour, the bass hitting hard and low, Gerald Cleaver’s drums elastic and limber underneath. Augmented by Bernstein and Malaby on “Sky Tango (for T.C.),” the disc’s longest track, the melody insinuates itself cautiously before Malaby takes off, building his solo block by block as the trio fills in the crevices. Malaby gives way to Madsen, who is electrifying, followed by Pavone, who brings the song back with timely grace. On “Sky Tango,” and throughout Orange, the best of Pavone’s music, whether for trio or quintet, is on full display.