By Ken Waxman
Prose masters such as Ernest Hemingway always wrote with an economy of style, without a word out of place. In a musical context the concept can be applied to the playing and composing of bassist Mario Pavone. That’s because nine originals which make up Blue Dialect mostly feature his trio members, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. When Pavone steps forward for a brief solo or to add additional though pinpointed phrasing or motion to a line, he strengthens the performance without bring attention to himself.
Like a devotee of an ideology, Pavone, 75, has been a proponent of this philosophy for years, having honed with skills with such masters of understatement as Paul Bley and Bill Dixon. This adherence has marked most of Pavone’s recording career, which dates to 1979, when Mitchell was just four years old and Sorey was year away from being born.
Symbolically dedicating a session to propelling the musical equivalent of le mot juste doesn’t mean abject seriousness however. The playing on this CD is frisky and effervescent. Mitchell, responsible for most theme statements, mates a light touch with brisk invention as if he adding windfalls to a casino score before anyone notices. His crinkling and skittish timbres on a tune like “Suitcase in Savannah” could pass for Bley’s; while a logical build up leads to thrilling, but understated Herbie Nichols-like swing on compositions such as “Blue”. Still on “Trio Dialect”, a joint improvisation, his agitated staccato flow borders on Cecil Taylor-like freedom. . Mostly as a piece like “Two One” confirms, he and Pavone function like a report and an editor. With the pianist story telling at a mid-range tempo, string plucks and stops provide the paragraphing and punctuation to the yarn. There are places where Sorey rockets the tempo, but maintaining the unified outline his percussive jabs are constantly edited to be as restrained as polishing precious metal.
Blue Dialect upholds the virtues of economical timbre placement while confirming that sparse yet focused improving is as fulfilling as jam-packed extended performances.