Mario Pavone places the airiest ballad next to the feistiest rocker on his new Dialect Trio album, and the shifting temperament between “Circles” and “The Beginning” is a telling synopsis of the group’s intentions, as well as a revealing snapshot of the disc’s rhythmic landscape. The band uses a jeweler’s eye to conflate abstraction and swing, beveling the key elements that balance the veteran bassist’s cagey pieces. Pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Tyshawn Sorey are deeply aligned, as they were on Philosophy’s predecessors, Chrome and Blue Dialect; the propulsion they generate in cahoots with the leader’s aggressive string work gives everything a kick.
Melodies come and go in this music. Pavone’s pithy themes – like the scrawled bop of “8-18-18” or the cool jaunt of “Two Thirds Radial” present themselves and then take a powder, leaving room for the flexibility central to the trio’s mission statement. Feathery maneuvers by Sorey morph to finessed aggression. Mitchell’s parade of skittish inversions often yields focused pronouncements. The strategies they share on “Everything There Is” propel a tightrope walk, each new improv choice – (tom tom rumble, splashy upper register trill) paving the way for the next. It would be an apt soundtrack to the daredevil moments of Man On a Wire, James Marsh’s portrait of World Trade Center acrobat Philippe Petit.
The takeaway here is pliability, as it so often is in Pavone’s work. This is an outfit obsessed with dynamics, in the business of triggering switcheroos and proud of its ability to dodge repetition. What’s dissonant one moment is consonant the next. Delicate musings give way to declarative skronk. It would be a blast to hear a playlist of combined tracks from Andrew Hill’s Strange Serenade, Misha Mengelberg’s Who’s Bridge, and Paul Bley’s Footloose! mixed in with Philosophy’s jittery jewels. Suggested title: Freebop Fantasia.