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Pivot and Paths

Elliott Simon By

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...they were able to create a communication between musician and listener that culminated in the type of collective journey that defines the best in live jazz.
Knitting Factory
New York City
2/22/2003

Saxophonist/flautist Thomas Chapin was a New York Knitting Factory musical founding father. Almost 5 years to the day from his untimely death, the Pivot Quintet, featuring some of Chapin’s closest musical associates in guitarist Michel Musillami and bassist Mario Pavone, held forth at the Knit’s “Old Office”. On this night, they were able to create a communication between musician and listener that culminated in the type of collective journey that defines the best in live jazz.

Reedman Tom Christensen’s Paths Quartet ably served as opening act beginning with Christensen’s own hot sax and moving through the first three cuts on their Paths CD. With its elegant English horn and flute duet, “Dude” displayed this quartet’s versatility, musicianship and unique instrumentation. Japanese percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, who shone on “Iquique”, added to the distinctive sound. Takeishi, seated cross-legged on the floor surrounded by traditional and non-traditional cymbals, small drums and other noise makers, took advantage of the live format with a dazzling solo off of a two note/two beat rhythm that had the room spellbound.

The Pivot Quintet began with a solid first set that featured the virtuosity of bassist Mario Pavone who came out attacking his bass with a vengeance. Musillami was not far behind, shouting out notes to his guitar while keeping pace with Pavone and drummer George Schuller. Schuller is a drummer who starts at the boundaries and then extends them. He can take the music through difficult and surprising changes with astonishing economy. Rounding out the quintet were trombonist Art Baron and saxophonist George Sovak.

While the first set highlighted pieces from the Pivot CD, in somewhat straightforward fashion, it proved to be a warm-up for things to come. Based around Musillami’s catchy anthem, “Swedish Fish”, the final set incorporated Musillami frantic fretwork into a semi-free-form format that took band and listener to the edges and then some. While Musillami and Pavone madly alternated melody, adventurous Schuller drumming, trademark Art Baron plunger/mute work and an awesome Sovak sax solo highlighted a communal excursion to the next world and back. These professional musicians are able to challenge each other when given the room of a live venue. They each possess a strong individual musical personality that through live gigs is starting to coalesce into a greater group whole. Hopefully there will be more “Live Pivot”, as on this night, Chapin’s dictum of “While Time is, it is best to be, in both worlds, music, as the bridge” was within their grasp.

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