Trio Arc opens with the roiling drums of Matt Wilson and the dexterous bass of Mario Pavone. They converse for a bit, and pianist Paul Bley enters, hands darting here and there. Their jazz is free but with rhythm and a sense—a hint—of swing. This feeling of tethered freedom pervades Pavone’s excellent new record, which reunites him with his old comrade Bley on their first recording together in 35 years.
What a reunion, and Wilson fits right in. The symbiosis of Pavone and Wilson is remarkable. They are the ones who seem as though they’ve been playing together forever. Their simpatico creates a sort of fever dream that replaces any need for structured timekeeping. A simple bebop rhythm on the ride cymbal coupled with Pavone’s guttural bass provides all Bley needs for his minimalist, and then excitable, work on “Quest.” Later, on “Sweet,” Wilson churns a free-jazz ballad rhythm that wants to swing gently while Pavone pecks quickly on the bass, until Bley burps out a chord. Bley rummages around inside the piano case on “Lazzi,” picking at the strings, while Pavone plucks the upper register and Wilson lays down a pattern of footfalls that fade in and out, like a runner pacing this way and that. It is a beautifully odd amalgam of sounds, and it leaves the listener wanting more.