A drumless avant-garde jazz quartet, Pago Libre ally the wild side of the Ganelin Trio with a European touch of contemporary composition and a Mediterranean jazz feel. That is to say the group presents adventurous jazz using an unusual instrumentation: violin, piano, double bass, and French horn ( certainly a rarity. Composition and improvisation play equal roles; so do humor and emotion. The group has albums out on Splasc(h), Leo, and TCB.
Contrary to popular belief, "Pago Libre" is not an Italian expression, but an acronym of the founding members' names: Italian bassist Daniele PAtumi, American violinist Steve GOodman, Swedish trumpeter Lars LIndvall, and Swiss pianist (of Irish extraction) John Wolf BREnnan. The quartet first got together in 1988, but having members scattered on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean meant from the start that its activities would be of a sporadic nature. A first album entitled Extempora came out on the Italian new jazz label Splasc(h) in 1990. Shortly thereafter, Goodman left and was replaced by Swiss violinist Tscho Theissing, but the original quartet appeared as part of the 13-piece ensemble featured on Brennan's 1993 CD Dance, You Monster, to My Soft Song! Four years and a few concerts around Europe later, it was Lindvall's turn to call it quits. Almost half of the pieces on the group's debut were credited to the trumpeter's name (Brennan received credit for the other half), but by the time he left Theissing had come forth as a very talented composer, seizing up the group's potential and providing its signature sound. In October 1994, Russian French horn player Arkady Shilkloper became the fourth member and the lineup remained stable from that point forward.
The revamped quartet recorded an eponymous CD for Bellaphon/L+R in 1995 (later reissued by Leo) and a live album, Wake Up Call, released by Leo in 1998. It took another three years for its follow-up, Cinemagique, to see the light of day. Meanwhile, Brennan and Patumi developed a beautiful ongoing collaboration as a duo ) recording two albums: Ten Zentences (Bellaphon, 1993) and Time Jumps ( Space Cracks (Leo, 2002) ) and in the trio Aurealis with flutist Robert Dick.