Mario Pavone: Ancestors

Mario Pavone Double Tenor Quintet — Ancestors (Playscape, 2008 )

ancestorsThere’s creativity, adventure, and spice to Mario Pavone‘s inside/out jazz, but it also won’t scare off your Brotzmann-fearing friends. Things stay in step, sticking to modern bop composing and some edgy soloing — it’s one step closer to the deep end than your usual jazz-club fare, but your head’s still above water.

Ancestors cracks the mold a little by stretching into freer and more aggressive spaces. It’s two-fisted work, with quirky composing that gives way to hard-blowing solos. It feels like a major step for an already accomplished leader.

It’s a two-sax band, with one seat held down by Tony Malaby. His recent Warblepeck (Cello Trio) and Tamarindo albums have been mind-blowing, full of twisty ideas. Malaby helped push boundaries on Pavone’s Boom album and sounds like he’s been let loose here.

Malaby is paired with Jimmy Greene, who’s unfamiliar to me but can be sampled on MySpace and researched on All About Jazz. I’m guessing it’s Malaby who digs deep for a growly ferocity during the first solo on “Ancestors,” then Greene who takes a lighter approach but still ends up sour-toned and sweaty as his solo gains velocity. Greene is less rough-edged in his playing than Malaby but no less energetic, and the contrast of their styles is like an extra splash of color.

Peter Madsen on piano is longtime musical partner of Pavone’s, and his playing here is tougher and his soloing more abstract than I remember hearing on previous albums. You could argue he’s got more to do with Ancestors‘ sound than do the sax players. I’ll have to revisit his Sphere Essence solo album (which is a Monk tribute and doesn’t strive for this kind of jugular attack, admittedly) or seek out his Prevue of Tomorrow.

All this work is grounded by — sometimes led by — Pavone’s own thick, throttling bass lines and hardy solos, and Gerald Cleaver‘s funky/free drumming. This is exciting, substantial stuff.