Tony Malaby is a five-tool saxophonist who can handle standards, ballads, fiery improvisation, delicate abstraction, and sympathetic accompaniment with equivalent skill. He demonstrates the full range of his talents on Adobe
, a trio session with bassist Drew Gress and revolutionary drummer Paul Motian. In this setting, there is no true leader as each player alternately moves to the front or stands aside to serve the demands of the tune. The result is a relaxed, inviting recording whose loose spirit and relaxed vibe draw you in and make you lean forward just a little.
The CD opens with a reading of Ornette's "Humpty Dumpty." Malaby's tone is light and airy and he and Gress absorb the melody from the composition like sponges, then wring it out again with their individual solos. On Malaby's own "Maine" and Angelica Sanchez's "No Brainer," Motian pushes and pulls the tempo with his insistent kick drum, and Malaby is a searcher, spinning long lines of sound as the world passes by on his quest. At times the horn is second to Gress' captivating and equally versatile bass. On "Adobe Blues," Gress states the melody before Malaby repeats it on soprano, the higher pitched horn giving his sound an intensity constantly on the verge that sometimes crosses over into piercing, plaintive cries. It's Motian who demands your attention on "Dorotea La Cautiva," a ballad in which the drummer's barely perceptible brushes whisper in the background, like he's telling a very important secret, and Malaby's warm tenor and Gress' vivid contrabass engage in a duet, each supporting the melody and filling in the other's pauses.
Lastly, "Gone" is a gossamer free jazz coda that embodies the democratic ideal of this trio, as each musician makes his statement, briefly, before they all depart. On Adobe Malaby, Motian and Gress use the craft and techniques of modern jazz to build a work as sun-dried, warm and welcoming as a home in the Arizona desert.
Personnel: Drew Gress: Bass;
Tony Malaby: Soprano, Tenor Sax;
Paul Motian: Drums.