Interview II: Mario Pavone

Last week, Ars Nova Workshop shared the first half of our conversation with Mario Pavone, who will be in Philadelphia on December 12 with Orange Double Tenor.  For the second part of our interview, we asked Mario to tell us more about the suite his sextet will perform, Arc Suite T/Pi T/Po.  Here’s what he had to say:

When’s the last time you played Philadelphia? 

I think 15 or 16 years ago, 1995 or 1996, with the Thomas Chapin Trio.  It could have been Painted Bride or elsewhere.  During this time the trio, with Michael Sarin on drums, was playing 200 concerts a year, and almost all of them were wonderful.

What’s the motivation behind Arc Suite T/Pi T/Po?

The intent of the work was to reflect on the reactions I’ve had hearing so many legends and innovators from 1960 to 1968.  The physical presence of these giants and the socio-political issues their work addressed has remained with me to this day.  I wanted to re-envision and reinterpret this in today's idiom, and within my own compositional systems: the feeling, the ethos, and the energy of that time and those players.

How does this work tell the story of your musical history?

I can speak about individual pieces within the suite.  “Poles” explores the visual component that was so much a part of that music, specifically Jackson Pollack. “The Dom” was an important jazz club, located on St. Marks Place (East 8th Street, between 2nd Avenue and The Bowery) and situated just below the “Electric Circus”: a rock club where Jimi Hendrix and others would often play, while at the same time downstairs at The Dom Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Tony Scott and many others were playing.  The Fillmore East was located just around the corner.  This confluence illustrates the great change of cultural focus that was taking place, from The Beatles to Woodstock.  “Silver Print” calls up other visual images, photography, and looking at and hearing Rahssan Roland Kirk, with never less than three horns hanging from his neck, playing all of them simultaneously with grace and power.  Ultimately, I would like to have the work and the music on the CD speak for itself and to tell the story without words.

How do the ensemble members’ voices lend themselves to these compositions?

While Arc Suite T/Pi T/Po is both a new work and a summary of my work, it is in the brilliance of these players that I look forward to the future. Most of the musicians on Arc Suite have collaborated with me for 10 years or more although they are two to three decades younger than me.  They intuitively understand the harmonic implications in my written scores, and they bring their own world of experiences and training to bear on these pieces.  In the process, they are feeding information back to me, enhancing my ability to continue writing new and fresh work.  Their great understanding of music history, combined with their extensively informed approaches, result in each player's sound and the content of their solos being able to reference the music from that time with my compositional systems. 

In the spirit of looking back at your history as a musician, what’s one of your fondest memories?

There are many, but a luminous, sky blue summer day in July at the Newport Jazz Festival with Thomas Chapin and Michael Sarin takes the cake!

Mario Pavone’s Orangle Double Tenor will be performing on Sunday, December 12 at International House (3701 Chestnut Street).