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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tony Malaby - Voladores (Clean Feed, 2009) *****

Regular readers of this blog know my appreciation for Tony Malaby, both as a saxophonist and as a composer. His tone is warm, lyrical and sensitive, his compositions and improvisations always welcoming and surprising at the same time, adventurous in his approach of jazz tradition, creating the new angle from within the musical edifice that we know. This quartet further consists of the double drums of Tom Rainey and John Hollenbeck, without a doubt two of the creative rhythmic wizards of these days, and Drew Gress on bass, another one of the finest. Hollenbeck uses everything but the kitchen sink as percussive objects, including marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, melodica and small kitchen appliances (whatever that may be but surely not the kitchen sink). What a band, and again, what music. It is complex, with rhythm changes, overlapping time signatures, tempo changes, with shifting moods and intensities, often in the same piece, fierce at times, melodious always, deeply felt too. From the wild outbursts on tenor on "Old Smokey", to the finely squeezed out tones on "Dreamy Drunk", Malaby's skills are a real pleasure for the ear. But he doesn't shy away from the more experimental stuff:  a piece like "Can't Sleep" gives a strong stressful evocation of its title, "Are You Sure?", brings a hesitating kind of wonder, "YeSssss", brings a wonderful quiet exploration of minimal sound interaction, "What's Up, Smell The Sumatra", is an exercise in distress and tension. Yet the real value comes from the longest pieces, on which all the complexities and the wealth of the music come to full fruition. "Sour Diesel" starts with a great rhythmic bass vamp, over which the soprano and the melodica interlace for a strange melody in counterpoint, but the again, structures changes and the tune evolves in a more expressive improvisation. It is in my opinion not as expressive as the more "free" "Tamarindo", but the wealth of concepts, the skills of all four musicians, the creativity and the expressivity make this an absolutely wonderful album. Don't miss it.

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© stef


Anonymous said...

Very nice review. Thanks, Stef. I thought Adobe and Tamarindo were great. (I bought Tamarindo based on your review.)

It will be interesting to hear how he interacts with two drummers.