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Mario Pavone: Trio Arc

Troy Collins By

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Trio Arc is bassist Mario Pavone's 18th recording as a leader, and the first to consist entirely of totally improvised music. Reuniting with his former mentor, legendary pianist Paul Bley, for the first time in 35 years, this freewheeling session recalls the halcyon days of the early Loft Era of the 1970s.

Pavone made his recording debut on Bley's Canada (Radio Canada, 1968) and continued to tour with the pianist in trio formation with drummers Barry Altschul and Laurence Cook through the early 1970s. Reminiscent of their seminal work, this spontaneous set finds the old acquaintances joined by another sympathetic drummer, Matt Wilson.

A mainstay in Pavone's groups, this is Wilson's fifth recording with him. His past work with Bley makes him the ideal candidate for this trio. A gifted virtuoso with a mercurial sensibility, Wilson's impulsiveness is anchored by Pavone's solid foundation. Together, their malleable tempos and dynamic accents provide an openly conversational foundation for Bley.

A legendary improviser and conceptual innovator, Bley's reputation precedes him. At age 76, his gift for melody is as strong as ever. His fragmentary cadences, jagged phrases and oblique lines are utterly singular. Driven by an internal logic drawn from years of experience, they reveal a wealth of historical weight and harmonious detail. Salvoes of spontaneous melodic kernels offer an array of stylistic possibilities—from sinuous blues and bittersweet romanticism to terse angularity and dissonant clusters.

Recorded with no rehearsal or discussion about the possible outcome, these seven tunes demonstrate the trio's intuitive abilities as they modulate between fervid expressionism and restrained finesse; their excursions offer a concise balance of instrumental sonorities, sensitive interplay and dynamic range.

The vibrant "Slant" opens the album with Pavone and Wilson locked into an off-kilter rhythm that churns with roiling momentum. Bley enters with a flurry of cascading notes before easing into a dark, bluesy duet with Pavone at the coda.

Conjuring an Asiatic air, Bley introduces "Lazzi" with pointillist ruminations from inside his piano. Pavone's bright pizzicato pedal tones and Wilson's metronomic pulse generates simmering momentum. The tune eventually ascends into a three-way discourse, embroiled in terse dialog and heated call-and-response.

The trio is at their most incisive on "Quest," a blast of elastic free bop dominated by bruising accents. Lyrical and restrained, "Hello Again" unveils itself gradually, with carefully considered melodic development. Scintillating cymbal work, yearning bass tones and animated impressionistic piano phrases define "Miro," while "Sweet" lives up to its title; a euphonious vehicle that weaves dulcet refrains with probing angles in a swirling miasma of color. "Solo Bley" closes the album on an introspective note.

On this multi-generational summit meeting, Bley, Pavone and Wilson reveal the rich sonic potential inherent in the traditional piano trio format. A modern classic, Trio Arc is a superlative and timeless example of free improvisation.


Track Listing: Slant; Hello Again; Quest; Miro; Lazzi; Sweet; Solo Bley.

Personnel: Mario Pavone: bass; Paul Bley: piano; Matt Wilson: drums.

Title: Trio Arc | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

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