Mario Pavone: Sharpeville

AAJ Staff By

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It’s great to have this disc back again; even better for me who never did get the original Alacra LP recorded in 1985 and released in 1988. Pavone creates a magical soundworld through what for some other artists might be called chamber jazz, but Pavone makes his own “school” here, as it is neither ethereal nor “cool.”

The bassist constructs pieces with different rhythms, but whether because of the compositions or the players, all of them masters even then, it’s about timbre, shading, and voices in interplay. Yeah, I guess it is chamber music after all.

“Chimera,” for example, finds Pavone opening with a grinding arco, Pheeroan ak Laff doing rhythmic patterns so subtlely yet pointedly, and the various reeds of Marty Ehrlich and Thomas Chapin interweaving so connectedly that the listener is held, indeed, suspended.

The opener, “Bi Cycle,” isn’t program music à la Leroy Anderson, but rhythmic wheels are set in motion and they don’t always seem to be at the same speed; very exiting. “Double” is a solo bass piece; at first I wondered with whom he was duetting, but realized Pavone was listening so closely to himself that he became his own rhythmic foil. It’s a beautiful piece, with lots of woody sound. “Ark Two” is constructed of reappearing Ornette-type heads which then disappear, but the body of the piece is all Pavone, who also offers a long, emotionally moving solo.

The title track, actually the entire disc, is inspired by the violence in the Sharpeville Township, South Africa, during what then would seem the never-ending apartheid. The music, happily, does not take the easy way out by appropriating township rhythms, just some of the sounds of South African jazzers; this is top-drawer jazz improv. “Sharpeville” was recorded live at St. Peter’s Church with personnel different from the rest of the disc: Mark Whitecage on alto, Peter McEachern on ‘bone, and John Betsch on drums. It’s an especially strong piece, with an interesting head, and the always on-it Whitecage shows how one can suspend time in a wailing whine that doesn’t have to also sound like Albert Ayler.

Throughout, one is reminded of akLaff’s ability to create rhythms which on the surface are simple, but so intricate, and under his control, that one doesn’t notice his anchoring the music; it just seems...tasty.

This reissue is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Chapin. No music has been added to these wonderful forty minutes, which seem perfect as is, except I usually find myself hitting the play button again for a second go-round. Pavone has written new brief, informstive and warm liner notes. Alacra discs often suffered from good audio and bad vinyl whoosh. It’s good to have this winner silvered. Thank you, Playscape. It’s time for me to dig out my other Pavone Alacra LPs and New World CDs, now obviously too long neglected.

Feel free to visit http://www.playscape-recordings.com .

Track Listing: Bi Cycle; Bass Ballad; Three M; Double; Two Flutes; Sharpeville; Chimera; Aku; Ark Two; 4 Up, 1 Down.

Personnel: Mario Pavone: bass; Marty Ehrlich: alto and soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute and alto flute; Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute and bass flute; Pheeroan Ak Laff: drums; Mark Whitecage: alto saxophone; Peter McEachern: trombone; John Betsch: drums.

Title: Sharpeville | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

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