AMN Reviews: Jessica Pavone String Quartet – Brick and Mortar (2019; Birdwatcher Records)

Jessica Pavone offers her second release of the year with these five pieces for a string quartet. Pavone, who is well-known as an experimental violinist, plays the viola on Brick and Mortar. She is joined by Joanna Mattrey also on viola, as well as Erica Dicker and Angela Morris on violin. Unlike some of Pavone’s previous works, this album is more composed than improvised; it is played relatively “straight” with few extended techniques and no obvious effects or processing.

But that is not to say that Brick and Mortar is conventional in any sense. Each track has its own distinct and unusual character, from the pulsing of Lullaby and Goodnight to the rich, interlocked drones of the title track. Pavone leads the group through slowly-evolving melodies, not quite pastoral yet with an Eastern European feel. Sooner or Later explores contrapuntal patterns while By and Large centers around a lilting motif that accelerates upward in pitch.

Eschewing the overtly dissonant while remaining modern, Pavone has created a compelling and creative effort with broad appeal. The pace is deliberate and thoughtful with a detailed atmosphere.  Well done.

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