Saturday, May 15, 2021

Mr. Pavone

Photo: Steven Sussman
 5/15/2021 –– Just last week, Downbeat published an online article about bassist and composer Mario Pavone and his fight with cancer.  It was reported today that Mr. Pavone died at the age of 80.  As one of the finest musicians to hail from the state of Connecticut who traveled the world with musicians such as the late Thomas Chapin, trumpeter Bill Dixon, and saxophonist Anthony Braxton as well as his long-time friend, guitarist Michael Musillami.  Short in stature, Mr. Pavone had a "big" sound, writing fascinating music for his many ensembles, and always moving forward.  He sought out like-minded musicians to play his music, musicians such as saxophonists Jimmy Greene and Tony Malaby, pianists Craig Taborn, Peter Madsen, Matt Mitchell, and Angelica Sanchez, trumpeter Dave Ballou, and drummers Michael Sarin, Matt Wilson, Tyshawn Sorey, and Gerald Cleaver.  He also served on the faculty of the Litchfield Jazz Festival Jazz Camp.  

Photo: Litchfield Jazz/Youtube
I had the joy of seeing Mario play on numerous occasions. He came through Middletown CT (where I live) on numerous occasions. Once, when he and Michael Sarin were playing with Thomas Chapin, I talked with them about playing such small venues (on this occasion, a basement that attracted 15 paying customers).  Mario laughed, saying the Trio had just returned from the Northsea Jazz Festival where they played for overflow crowds of up to 20,000.  Not as intimate as the CT gig but much more exciting. No matter the size of the audience, Mario played with great fire and intelligence, his compositions stretching the borders of creative music and challenging the musicians and the audience.  

Photo: Lindsey Victoria
He recorded many of his albums for Playscape (Mr. Musillami's label) and for Clean Feed; his discography is filled with albums that never seem dated or filled with cliches.  The music language Mario Pavone created in the studio and on concert stages was inspired by the masters of Black American Music, people such as Messrs. Dixon and Braxton as well as John Coltrane, Paul Bley, Wadada Leo Smith, Muhal Richard Abrams, Marty Ehrlich, and others. Yet, he rarely sounded like any of those artists; even now, you can listen to any of his albums and hear something you had missed before.

Time takes all our friends and family and we should be glad for the time we did have with them.  It was always a joy to be in the presence of Mario Pavone, especially when he was on the bandstand.  He will be missed!

To check out his story and his discography, go to  

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