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Michael Musillami/Mario Pavone: Pivot

There’s a tremendously high level of musicianship presented on Pivot. The music also has a cohesiveness and flair that’s reflective of a genuine band rather than that of a haphazard all-star session, mostly due to the outstanding rhythm section of bassist/co-leader Mario Pavone and drummer George Schuller. They don’t just fill in behind the frontline; they contribute strong, vital foundations for the other players. Indeed, the unison sections and exchanges are just as arresting as the solos, and some tunes, such as “Swedish Fish,” highlight the complete group rather than any one member.

Though the session stresses a collective approach, when given solo space, such players as multisaxophonist George Sovak, trombonist Art Baron and guitarist Michael Musillami demonstrate their impressive proficiency. Baron’s fluid, rubbery playing is an asset whether meshing with Sovak or adding his own pungent moments. Sovak’s best instrument seems the tenor, where his swaggering, broad tenor and soulful manner are exciting, but he’s also a fine flute and soprano stylist and a good, if less distinctive, clarinet and alto player. Musillami has a graceful, light approach, eschewing the machine-gun note mode.

Pavone and Musillami wisely rotate the song styles, from ballads to uptempo numbers, which keeps listeners on their toes. The flexible but concise Pivot proves that bands can make compelling, fresh and contemporary music without writing overly intricate pieces or requiring the audience to wade through nearly 80 minutes and 20 songs to hear a few memorable ones.

Originally Published