After doing a bit of catching up with recent releases of older material on Playscape Recordings, Michael Musillami and Mario Pavone are stepping out again. Op-Ed, the most recent Pavone/Musillami collaboration, was recorded in February of this year, and it provides an interesting snapshot of a working band on its way up. The same quartet that got together for last year's Motion Poetry returns on Op-Ed with a set of perky, upbeat tunes that demand and achieve a degree of cohesion rare among modern jazz groups.
Guitarist Musillami wrote half the pieces on Op-Ed, and bassist Pavone wrote the other half. ("Op-Ed" splits the credit, and the classic "Toulon" shares joint credit between Pavone and Marty Ehrlich.) These compositions follow the time-tested formula of head-solos-head, but they offer a degree of flexibility that often masks formal structure. Musillami's playing simply glows herehe's red-hot with energy, and he lacks none of the technical prowess necessary to communicated this fire. His twisting, tangling lines shoot out at light speed without betraying any exhibitionist virtuosity. The rhythm section also deserves special attention. Drummer Michael Sarin almost steals the show, taking his firm role as timekeeper to abstract extremes through pointed dialogue with each of the melody players. Pavone, who's never been one to bask in the limelight, takes his share of pulsing, undulating solosbut mostly he's content to lay back in the groove and provide solid structural support for the group.
The only fair criticism one could offer this recording is that it very rarely catches its breath. The insistent onward advances of Op-Ed do not hesitate. On Musillami's "Swingthing," midway through the record, the tempo and density drop, but the group retains a striking, almost revelatory intensity. Then it's back into the onrushing tide, and everyone kicks back in. Very few modern jazz quartet records display this level of focus and clarity; listeners eager to jump on for a blistering ride will find Op-Ed an unusually exciting sonic voyage. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: Op-Ed; Bass Song; 7 Blend; Toulon; Swingthing; Today the Angels; Shorty; Pearl Talk.
Personnel: Michael Musillami: guitar; Mario Pavone: bass; Peter Madsen: piano; Michael Sarin: drums.