Unusual among bass players, Mario Pavone has an extremely well-developed sense of melody as well as harmony and rhythm. He exercises this musical fluency at the levels of both composition and improvisation on Sharpeville.
Recorded fifteen years ago during the dark days of apartheid, this disc makes explicit reference to the particularly outrageous events that occurred in the South African Sharpeville Township. Pavone originally released Sharpeville
in 1988 on Alacra Records, his vinyl-only label. This reissue brings the recording to the digital format for the first time.
Sharpeville features all-Pavone compositions in a (mostly) quartet format. Pavone's musical sense defies easy categorization. Whether swinging, pulsing, or flying free, the tunes on this disc make effective use of the broad musical vocabulary of the quartet. Pavone stands at the apex of a unit which alternately thrusts forward and twists free. The twin voices of saxophonists Thomas Chapin and Marty Ehrlich (separated by stereo channel) display obvious respect for formal structure and harmony, while at the same time remaining open to timbral exploration and angular improvisation. Drummer Pheeroan Ak Laff assiduously protects the beat, while at the same time lending rich tonal color to support the lead voices. And of course, Pavone himself steps out of the rhythm section on a regular basis to emphasize melodies, offer counterpoint, or participate in free improvisation.
Sharpeville represents yet another high point in Pavone's strong discography. While his work as a sideman has been consistent, his unusual fluency and creativity shine on outings as a leader.
Personnel: Mario Pavone: bass; Marty Ehrlich: alto and soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute and alto flute; Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute and bass flute; Pheeroan Ak Laff: drums; Mark Whitecage: alto saxophone; Peter McEachern: trombone; John Betsch: drums.