Matt Pavolka: The Horns Band at Smalls Jazz Club 1/17/18 (by Jeff McGregor)


PERSONNEL: Matt Pavolka (bass, trombone), Chris Cheek (tenor and soprano saxophone), David Smith (trumpet), Jacob Garchik (trombone), Mark Ferber (drums)

SET 1: Car Crash While Hitchhiking, Magali, The Speed of Dark, Disciplinary Architecture, Mr. Tanimoto Who Still Had No Oars, And Then We Towed New Zealand Out To Sea (all by Pavolka)

SET 2: Defeating The Porpoise, Without Fear of Wind or Vertigo, Malebolge, Noboru Wataya’s Time of Madness, Crackers Eating Crackers (all by Pavolka)

HIGHLIGHTS:  “Mr. Tanimoto, Who Still Had No Oars” stood out for its captivating melody and beautiful improvisations. Cheek’s solo was particularly striking and perfectly supported by Pavolka and Ferber who’s elastic accompaniment created a range of timbres and textures for Cheek to improvise over.

Pavolka formed the Horns Band in 2011. The group performs regularly in New York City and released their first record in 2014 on Fresh Sound Records. Pavolka cites a range of influences for the group, but his most direct references are Dave Holland’s chordless quintets (Jumpin’ In, Seeds Of Time, and The Razor’s Edge). Pavolka explains further:

I hope everybody feels free in the context of this music, but I’m really interested in getting as much compositionally out of this instrumentation and these musicians as I can.

The evening opened with the swinging “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” an angular melody over rhythm changes. The familiar form allowed the soloists to stretch showcasing each musician’s distinct blowing style. As the set continued, Pavolka’s more involved compositions allowed the group to further explore the balance between individual and collective. Improvised or notated, counterpoint is key for the Horns Band.

I write for this band like a large ensemble, but with the flexibility of a small one. I love creating harmony by writing single-note lines that make sense by themselves, but become something else when they all come together.

The evening closed with “Crackers Eating Crackers,” a fast (mostly) 5/4 that featured blistering solos from Cheek, Garchick, and Ferber.  Pavolka reflects the contemporary moment while staying true to his own voice.

— by Jeff McGregor