This is bassist Mario Pavone's second release of 2008 and it's every bit as strong as the earlier Trio Arc, also on Playscape. In marked contrast to the piano trio featured there, the quintet fronted by two tenor saxophones here is a more heated, volatile affair. The resulting contrast is as good an example as any of the amount of ground Pavone covers.
He's aided in that respect by having big ears. There are times here, as with the febrile animation of "Pachuca," where he's all over the music, as propulsive as any bassist worthy of the title should be, even while he's breaking the time and taking all sorts of liberties with it.
The very idea of a two-tenor front line is potentially fraught with complication but Pavone has been scrupulous with regards to who occupies the roles. There's enough contrast in the respective approaches of Jimmy Greene and Tony Malaby to ensure that the feeling of sameness doesn't set in. Malaby's work is the more fractious of the two whilst Greene, working a freer seam than the one he might be more readily associated with, brings to his work a kind of agitated grace which is symptomatic of a multi-faceted musician who's really coming into his own.
The degree to which the two men are simpatico is felt perhaps most strongly on the turbulently elegant "Strata Blue." Guitarist Michael Musillami's arrangement seems to breathe air into the composition and pianist Peter Madsen makes the most of his solo opportunity to turn in some intriguing variations. The fact that the rhythm trio is so flexible and alert to every possibility seems to lend the music an air of simplicity which is no small feat considering the complexity of the base material.
The same is true of "Beige Structure," where the spirit of Steve Lacy is evoked and not merely because both sax players initially pick up their sopranos. It's an example of how distinctive a compositional voice Pavone is, and again the band makes the most of it, underscoring the impression of a notably cohesive unit even while they avoid all the pratfalls inherent in such a line-up.
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