By Olle Lawson
“A lesson about how to live in society.” (Liner Notes.)
Double bassist Mario Pavone’s latest album Philosophy could equally have been entitled ‘Aphorisms’ considering how concise these eight mini manifestos are. Pavone is a selfless leader who none the less stamps his authorial mark on all of his multifaceted line-ups. This is the third Dialect Trio LP with pianist Matt Mitchell – best known for his work with Tim Berne – and the inimitable Tyshawn Sorey.
The opening track 8/18/18. – named for the day the record was cut – is Philosophy’s calling card tune: a classic, sprightly Pavone head that sets up a path for Mitchell to bring the piano to the fore. I was surprised to hear such straight-ahead clarity here but two minutes in the trio winds together finding its collective centrifugal force, suddenly locking in to an utterly contemporary intricacy. Mitchell even ascends to that Bill Evans ‘singing’ upper register before Mario signs his statement with a paced, probing mid-range solo.
The title-track whirls open with an Ellingtoned locomotive piano, bringing a distinct New York vibe as Sorey’s drumming spits and rolls, moving into hypnotically breaking down the beat, before ushering the whistle-call motif back in.
‘Circles’ by Annette Peacock was most memorably showcased on Paul Bley’s ultra-modern ’67 ECM release Ballads (with whom Pavone played ’68 -’72). This version maintains the beauty and melancholy minimalism inherent in the writing, whilst equalling the original’s crystalline, intervallic spaciousness; though with an additional warmth from Sorey’s detailed brush work.
A second Peacock tune – ‘The Beginning’ – is boiled down here to a hundred-and-three second rampage predicated on Sorey’s tumbling vortex of drums with Mitchell firing notes in all directions; the bass running and punching beneath.
‘Everything There Is’ – the center piece of the album – is an evolving triangular improvisation from all three members of the Dialect Trio. A never-resting interplay revolving around an oblique central tension. Mitchell’s upward swirls mapped out with sparse bass prods and underpinned with interwoven maelstromic drumming that both swaggers and provokes. This is Sorey at his finest – and for me the strongest piece on the album.
With its classic bass walk, ‘Two Thirds Radial’ elicits a distinct swing – Mario audibly vocalizing at the feel-point, as the band pulls from the beat.
The opening head of ‘Iskmix’ is archetypal Pavone: bouncing and rousing before slowing into a more complex interlocking dialogue.
At seventy-nine (it’s hard to believe from the recorded evidence here; and the ongoing work rate) Pavone retains a knotted, woody, punchy bass tone with a propulsive muscularity and relentlessly solid precision – playing with a vitality and energy of someone less than half his age. His looping, descending bass line on Noka, comprehensively deconstructed by Mitchell, brings the LP to a close.
Equal now to Pavone’s preceding Arc Trio, Philosophy presents the Dialect Trio in their most concentrated form: tightly principled dialogues, sculpted back to the essentials with structured, enquiring intensity. We should all be taking notes.
Special mention to Clean Feed, for the pitch perfect art work.