Throughout his forty-year career as a professional musician and on seventeen recordings under his leadership, bassist Mario Pavone has shown himself to be a musical maverick whose only concern is pushing himself and his contemporaries. On Deez To Blues, a sextet featuring acerbic trumpeter Steven Bernstein, violinist Charles Burnham and the consummate reed/tuba doubler Howard Johnson, showcases Pavone's quirky, angular pieces in all their idiosyncratic beauty.
The tunes run the gamut from improvisational foray to emotional ballad, and each musician contributes memorable solo statements. Burnham's pizzicato violin melds seamlessly with Pavone's resonant bass motifs on the superbly arranged "Dances 3/5, and both Bernstein and Johnson tear it up on "Ocbo, the later playing the oft-neglected tuba.
For all the powerful statements made by the horns, the real show here is in the remarkable rhythm section. Peter Madsen's piano is both a pliant foundation and a solo force to be reckoned with, while Michael Sarin's tasteful drumming is a model of grace and understatement. Of course, one would be remiss in neglecting to mention the astonishing contribution of the leader himself. Pavone's playing, especially on "Second-Term Blues, is razor-sharp and will surely draw the rapt attention of any bass lover.
Seeing Pavone in person at the 55 Bar last month was the perfect complement to hearing him on record. Although the group was different (a combination of players from previous outings, including Tony Malaby on tenor and Ron Horton on trumpet), the overall vibe was the same. Pavone was at the center of the proceedings, emitting raucous musical and verbal cues to his cohorts, while coaxing statements of sublime beauty from an instrument whose ornate top curled a foot over his close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair. The band played a stimulating mix of old and new Pavone compositions, along with a gem by the late saxophonist Thomas Chapin, to the delight of the packed house. The music was fresh and vibrant, two characteristics that seem equally apt when describing its remarkable creator.
Zines; Deez; Xapo; Dances 3/5; Day of the Dark Bright Light; Ocbo; Second-Term Blues.
Mario Pavone: bass; Steven Bernstein: trumpet, slide trumpet; Howard Johnson: tuba, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Charles Burnham: violin; Peter Madsen: piano; Michael Sarin: drums.