Spearmint Music: Jessica Pavone Interview

December 1, 2009

Photo by Jessica Pavone

This past Wednesday, New York-based musician, writer and WKCR DJ Kurt Gottschalk posted an interview with violist/composer Jessica Pavone on his blog, Spearmint Music, as part of the ongoing series, High Bias, which asks prominent musicians to answer a dozen standard questions.

Her latest record, Songs of Synastry and Solitude (Tzadik), was released October 27th.


Jessica Pavone CD Release Concert At Roulette Tonight

November 10, 2009


Tonight at Roulette in New York, violist/composer Jessica Pavone will leave the playing to the Toomai String Quintet, as the group performs selections from her new release, Songs of Synastry and Solitude (Tzadik).

The record, part of the label’s Oracles series celebrating “the diversity and creativity of women in experimental music making,” is a collection of string quartets (violin, viola, cello and double bass) inspired by the simple beauty of American folk songs, and modeled after singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia).

Critics have called the music “simple and stately, with a sombre grace” (Nilan Perera, Exclaim!), “wordless distillations of feeling and reflection” (Julian Cowley, The Wire) and “patient and clear, occasionally swinging and always heartfelt” (Time Out New York).

AllAboutJazz.com’s Troy Collins adds, “Songs of Synastry and Solitude is Pavone’s highest profile release as a composer to date, demonstrating her flair as a lyrical writer and supple orchestrator. A straightforward contemplation on the power of song, Songs of Synastry and Solitude is a timeless collection of elegant themes from a young composer of significant merit.”


Dusted: Jessica Pavone’s Songs Of Synastry And Solitude (Tzadik)

October 29, 2009

Songs of Synastry and Solitude is full of lyrical beauty and lush melodicism,” writes Dusted‘s Adam Strohm, “but it’s smart and spare, composed with an economy that never veers into anything saccharine. Performed with aplomb, these songs, no matter their tips of the hat, sound clean and fresh, imbued with an unobtrusive slice of personality. It’s further evidence (though, by now, hardly needed) that Jessica Pavone is a vital force in New York’s music community, capable and competent of playing way out in left field, or keeping things much closer to home.”


Jessica Pavone’s Songs Of Synastry And Solitude (Tzadik)

October 27, 2009


Today is the official street date for violist/composer Jessica Pavone‘s latest recording, Songs of Synastry and Solitude (Tzadik). This release is part of the label’s Oracles series, which celebrates “the diversity and creativity of women in experimental music making.”

Inspired by the simple beauty of American folk songs, and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen‘s Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia), this recording features 11 of Ms. Pavone’s original compositions for string quartet (violin, viola, cello and double bass) performed by members of the Toomai String Quintet.

Ms. Pavone and the group will celebrate the release of the record on Tuesday, November 10th with a live performance at Roulette in New York.

“Violist and composer Jessica Pavone has been a fixture on the New York scene for over a decade. Songs of Synastry and Solitude is Pavone’s highest profile release as a composer to date, demonstrating her flair as a lyrical writer and supple orchestrator. A straightforward contemplation on the power of song, Songs of Synastry and Solitude is a timeless collection of elegant themes from a young composer of significant merit.”
Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com

“…a set of 11 original compositions that are emotionally weighty and dark, yet ultimately uplifting. While there is no direct stylistic or thematic link to Cohen’s songs, Pavone communicates the same sense of inevitability and universal suffering as the singer does, and leaves the listener with the same sense that there is hope in living—if only hope that daily suffering will be alleviated by the joy of song, love, spiritual enlightenment, and other forms of grace. This is measured, deliberate music that might be a love song, a prayer or just an acknowledgment that, as John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison once sang, you’ll never get out of these blues alive.”
James Hale, Jazz Chronicles

“In this release, she has presented compositions that are simple and stately, with a sombre grace that stands in wary contrast to Cohen’s finite pronouncements. The thoroughness and narrative direction of a songwriter inform her work, much as a good folk song would…pieces are performed with sensitivity and rigor by members of the Toomai String Quintet, projecting a sober view softened occasionally by a considered wistfulness. Pavone’s music reflects an austere but tender landscape where watchfulness orders reality.”
Nilan Perera, Exclaim!

“These 11 instrumentals are songs, too, in scale and shape, wordless distillations of feeling and reflection, brief musical narratives of relationship, star-blest or star-crossed…it’s a bittersweet chamber music evoking accord or aloneness that she is after, simply rendered and neatly crafted. The inclusion of double bass heightens both mellowness and melancholy, and it serves as a pivot for elegant dance rhythms that crop up among the wistful melodies.”
Julian Cowley, The Wire


Tzadik To Release Jessica Pavone’s New CD In October

August 12, 2009
Photo by Erica Magrey

Photo by Erica Magrey

On October 27th, Tzadik will release violist/composer Jessica Pavone‘s Songs of Synastry and Solitude (TZ 7719) as part of the Oracles series, which celebrates “the diversity and creativity of women in experimental music making.” Inspired by the simple beauty of American folk songs, and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen‘s Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia), this recording features 11 of Ms. Pavone’s original compositions for string quartet (violin, viola, cello and double bass) being performed by members of the Toomai String Quintet. The group will celebrate the release of the record on Tuesday, November 10th with a live performance at Roulette in New York.

The music on Songs of Synastry and Solitude grew out of the composing process for her 2007 release, Quotidian (Peacock Recordings), which documents a four-part suite that examines the temporal landmarks within each day. “I was most satisfied with the results of ‘Post Meridiem’, the afternoon piece,” Ms. Pavone remembers, “which explored informal music for one’s self in the middle of the day, in contrast to formal evening concerts. I wanted to continue writing string music based on the ideas in that piece, but for a quartet with double bass, which gives the music more flexibility and allows me to more easily draw from my folk music influence—the idea being I am writing ‘songs’ for a ‘classical’ ensemble.”

“I don’t feel like my music has something grandiose to portray,” she continues. “I just want it to sound real. I’m a songwriter that just happens to write instrumental songs—I hear music for small and intimate ensembles—and that was my approach to these string quartets. There is a lot of arpeggiation of chords throughout the ensemble emulating a finger picked guitar as well as a chorus/verse structure and an emphasis on simplicity. As I was composing these songs, I would check out older European composers’ string quartet scores and recordings, and every time said to myself, ‘I would never write music like this.’ Then there’d be times I’d hear a song by the Soul Stirrers or Leonard Cohen and think, ‘Ah, I would write music like this. I am going to borrow forms from this.'”

The influence of Cohen, and his dichotomous 1970 recording, are felt throughout this project, both in name and the underlying intent of the composer. “There’s a deep, unexplainable feeling I get from listening to his music,” says Ms. Pavone. “I feel like he encourages me to live outside this world and to explore what I call ‘the ghosts of all things lost’, reminders of past moments in my life that are still oddly familiar, but no longer part of my present existence. I want my music to have a heaviness—a weight that people feel and not just hear—as I try to recreate the feeling of his music, as well as my experience feeling his music.”

“Jessica Pavone is one of the busiest young performers on the city’s creative music scene,” declared Steve Dollar in a 2008 feature in the New York Sun, “lending her strings and a direct, personal style of playing them to all kinds of settings.” Jazz Review‘s Philip Clark writes, “We learn things from her music that we didn’t already know. [Her] harmonic openness turns the microscope on herself and she responds with lines of honest clarity, an oblique perspective on the familiar.” AllMusic.com’s Charlie Wilmouth adds, “Her work possesses an uncommon amount of elegance…each piece is perfectly formed, expiring just as its tiny collection of melodic materials cycles through to its logical conclusion.”

Active in New York for the past decade, Ms. Pavone is best known for her work with the iconic Anthony Braxton, and a cadre of his former students that includes guitarist Mary Halvorson and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. In addition to leading her own bands, such as The Pavones, she has also performed in improvising ensembles led by Jeremiah Cymerman, Laurence “Butch” Morris, Matana Roberts and Eliot Sharp, as well as such collective groups as the Mary Halvorson/Jessica Pavone Duo and The Thirteenth Assembly.

As a composer, she has earned grants and commissions from the Aaron Copland Recording Fund, the American Music Center, The Kitchen, MATA and the group, Till By Turning, which recently presented the European premiere of “Quotidian” at Faust’s Klangbad Festival 2009 in Germany. Her discography features more than 30 recordings, including recent releases from the Anthony Braxton 12+1tet, Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings and William Parker.

Learn more at http://www.jessicapavone.com