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One of the most prolific yet least recognized bassists on the New York scene today is Mario Pavone. Pavone, six decades into life, has no shortage of energy, and this is reflected on Mythos. Pavone offers 3 quintet tunes and 8 trio tunes, mostly originals, on this outing. The piano trio is always at the center of the music, but a couple horns add nice density up top. As always, Pavone treads the line between swing and punch, structured composition and free improvisationblending styles in interesting ways without ever getting noisy or pretentious. It's a mix and match affair for the participants, which makes for interesting listening when you have someone as bold as Pavone at the helm. Drummers Matt Wilson and Michael Sarin trade roles, and the difference is not subtleWilson loves detail and shimmering counterpoint, while Sarin has more of an ear for space and color.
But the most exciting part of Mythos is Pavone himself. You can take many approaches to listening to this record, but if you make the effort to listen to his lines, you'll hear an unswerving devotion to forward motion. Pavone can walk for years, but he has a flair for drama and angularity which he lets loose with regularity. Admittedly these pieces are in all sorts of weird time signatures, and they often shift styles midstream, but Pavone is clearly the locomotive driving this train: pure diesel power. His lines reveal the contours of the music, rendering each composition logical and coherent. As pianist Peter Madsen moves toward climax on "Dialect," for example, Pavone sees the peak ahead and shifts from a cyclical pulse to rapid-fire bursts of energy. Madsen and Pavone have a special relationship both in composition and in performance; Madsen is particularly exciting when he lets go of structure and bursts into the stratosphere, Tayloresque in his flight.
Mario Pavone remains impossible to categorize, with roots all over the map. This is toe-tapping, misty-swirling, percolating, mind-bending, heat-emitting music, all wrapped in one. Jazz. And it works.