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Monday, March 21, 2022

Tony Malaby’s Sabino - Cave of Winds (Pyroclastic Records, 2022) ****

By Kenneth Blanchard

Tony Malaby has not escaped the notice of the Free Jazz Collective. Last August we posted a fine review by Stef Gijssels’ of Malaby’s Turnpike Diaries. With live jazz music shut down tight, Malaby convened a series of performances under a New York turnpike bridge. You can find a nice, luxuriously long clip here. I love the oblivious cars passing behind the group and the young man who pauses to dance. As I understand it, Malaby came to refer to this venue as the cave of winds.

The cave is deeper than one might suspect at first, and the winds bring spices from the more or less distant past. Malaby recorded Sabino almost twenty-two years ago. Michael Formanek played bass, Tom Rainey drums, and Mark Ducret guitar. As happens frequently, the original album title becomes a band name. Ducret is replaced by Ben Monder. Otherwise, it’s the same group walking into the studio as if they took a two-decade bathroom break.

The cover is a nice abstract expression image. Five dark spots represent the five Turnpike recordings, with gray, watery shadows. Colored lines weave and intersect. That would be the winds.

The recording opens with "Corinthian Leather."  I quote from Liberty Leather Goods, which isn’t as sexy as it promises.

“Corinthian leather is not an actual type of leather at all, it is a marketing term. The Chrysler automobile company introduced it in 1974 to describe premium leather seat material. Celebrity Ricardo Montalban helped popularize the term in Cordoba car ads, leading to years of increased sales.” Cars.

Malaby states a simple, coherent theme and the rest join in a second statement. Bass and drum are clearly articulated. Monder’s guitar adds a distinctly electronic, jazz fusion vibe to the otherwise acoustic conversation.

Recrudescence is a longer, more pensive conversation with horn and bass prominent. The percussion is understated but as essential as buttons on a shirt. The guitar here adds mostly an extra layer of mood, impressionistic, pastel. I wish I could hear the bass a little better. A little more than half way through the action ratchets up. Everything but the drums gets louder and more hyper. The guitar is now painting city street sounds. Flashback? The title indicates a dormant infection that has reawakened.

Scratch the Horse (I love these song titles!) opens like a heavy metal stage show. Malaby follows Monder with the same Black Zeppelin intensity.

Insect Ward (!) is mostly an intriguing dialogue between Malaby and the Hymenoptera buzzing out of Formanek’s bass.

Cave of Winds opens with a short Malaby solo. Slowly the wind picks up, bringing a nice percussive thump from the bass, a flute-like melody from the guitar, and some slither from the drums. Like a string quartet, it is divided into sections. The wind picks up again in the second section. Horn and guitar swing against one another like flags meeting in a gale. Malaby here is at his most elegant and evocative. In later sections we get soaring power from all four jazzmen, a virtual funnel cloud that the horn can ride across the landscape. The guitar becomes horn-like, pushing curling wave of sound just behind the main theme. Best cut.

Life Coach (for Helias) is a brief but haunting horn/drum dialogue.

On the final cut, Just Me, Just Me, the guitar is back at Woodstock. We get a nice three piece engagement for a bit without the horn. That could have gone on longer, but when the horn cuts in I found myself grinning.

This is consummate jazz. Don’t let this one get by.