Greetings, Wide Open Jazz and Beyond fans. It's that time of year again when musicians pray they've saved enough quarters in their piggy banks from the end of the year party gigs to get through the cold and often gigless winter months. I was fortunate this January to get a call from Mario Pavone, one of my favorite bass players on the New York scene, to play four nights down at the Knitting Factory with his sextet. The first night the sextet performed alone, the next two nights we added the incredible tenor saxophonist and teaching guru George Garzone and the final evening was with underground genius avant-garde trumpeter Paul Smoker. What a great week of music we had. Mario was using the gig to promote our newly released trio CD on the Knitting Factory Label that we had recorded for the late Thomas Chapin called 'Nu Trio - Remembering Thomas'. The trio consists of the brilliant double bassist and composer Mario Pavone, the ever-inventive Matt Wilson on drums and yours truly Peter Madsen holding down the piano chair. The sextet added Peter McEachern on trombone, George Sovak on tenor, alto, flute and clarinet and Mike DiRubbo on clarinet, alto and soprano.
Mario Pavone has been on the NY scene for almost forty years. He began playing bass in the early sixties studying with the world famous Bertram Turetzky and got his first big break in 1964 when he began playing with one of my absolute favorite pianists Paul Bley. He was also a part of the famous New York loft scene of the sixties playing with Archie Shepp, Bill Dixon, Anthony Braxton and many other heroes of this great creative era. In the 70's Mario formed his own record company called Alarca following in the footsteps of one of his heroes Charles Mingus. He worked extensively in the late 70's and 80's in the New Haven, Connecticut area, which was full of incredible musicians at the time, studying at Yale or Wesleyan including Jane Ira Bloom, Ray Anderson, Anthony Davis, Gerry Hemingway, Mark Helias, Pheroan ak Laff, Leo Smith and many others. It was also in the eighties that Mario reconnected with the brilliant trumpeter Bill Dixon and recorded a number of albums with him for Soul Note. It was soon after this that Mario became the powerful anchor of the Thomas Chapin trio, recording seven amazing CD's with him over a ten-year period. An eight CD box set of all of their recordings (the additional CD is from an unreleased live concert recording) is due to be released very soon on the Knitting Factory label. I saw the test pressing and I must say it's the most beautiful box set that I've ever seen.
Mario has been composing music for his own groups for many years. His compositions are very earthy and full of bass vamps and hip lines. They sometimes swing and sometimes float and sometimes groove hard enough to knock the roof off. He leaves plenty of room for open improvisation sometimes with chord changes and often without. I think Mario is one of the finest writers around and you can hear evidence of this if you check out either of his CD's on the New World label. The first is called Toulon Days and has a very young Joshua Redman as part of the ensemble and the second is one that I recorded on called song for (septet). Both received great reviews from critics all over the world. Another highly regarded CD of Mario's, showing off his amazing skills as a composer and player, is his Knitting Factory release entitled Dancers Tales and don't forget our newly released trio recording I mentioned earlier called Nu Trio - Remembering Thomas.
I hope you get a chance to go out and hear Mario and one of his groups live sometime soon. If you do I'm sure you'll agree that it was worth the trip. If you don't live in the NYC area go and pick up one of his CDs -they're really great!