A dexterous bassist perhaps best known for his tenure in the late saxophonist Thomas Chapin’s wonderful ’90s trio, Mario Pavone is a splendid composer and bandleader, as well. His group plays a highly evolved postbop, his compositions (arranged by Steven Bernstein, Dave Ballou and Michael Musillami) combining odd-time vamps, intricate melodies and knotty chord progressions with an open-ended modality that provides the soloists maximum freedom.
Tenor and soprano saxophonists Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene are technically gifted, fiery soloists with contrasting styles: Malaby comes out the ’60s school—Coltrane is an obvious source (among others), though Malaby has his own thing—whereas the younger Greene is clearly in thrall of more recent masters like Steve Coleman and Greg Osby. Pianist Peter Madsen brings to mind modern jazz pianists from Bud Powell to Cecil Taylor, yet his style is seamless and organic. Drummer Gerald Cleaver’s skill at punctuating the music’s twists and turns are a huge factor in making this music a success. Pavone doesn’t hog solo space, yet he makes the most of his. He plays with horn-like agility without compromising the bass’ essential characteristics.
The band does a terrific job of interpreting Pavone’s highly complex tunes. This is sophisticated, exciting music.