Tone Collector is about as apt a description you will be able find for this trio of tenor man Tony Malaby, bassist Eivind Opsvik, and drummer Jeff Davis (all of whom also appear on Opsvik's Overseas
and Overseas II
). The name not only serves as the namesake of the trio, but also their album on Jazzaway Records as well.
Recorded live over two nights at the Glen Miller Café in Stockholm, Sweden, Tone Collector demands a lot of the listener as this trio works through compositions or collectively improvises in search of a unified sound. At first the group sounds displaced and disorienting, but as you listen to the album, you become more involved with each song's journey and logic. You begin to notice that you are never left completely awash in sound, with Opsvik's bass providing a root for you to grasp on to, or a stretch of melody that gives way to openended exploration.
Take "Swedish Summer, for example: Opsvik comes in bowing in the bottom register, followed closely by his cohorts. They maintain a sense of density throughout most of the brief composition, and midway through Malaby creates a sense of airiness through an almost barely audible set of tones. He then returns to the bottom of his horn and takes the foreground, never really soloing in the traditional sense, and eventually receding back into the fold.
Opsvik is commonly the touchstone here, providing a solid base and rarely venturing too far off in relation to his trio members. Davis employs every aspect of his kit, but never with the ferocity of someone like Han Bennink, and he never abandons the traditional kit for his main battery of sound. Probably the best known member of the trio, Tony Malaby works outside for most of the album in his quest. Instead of working from a melodic center, he seems to be trying to extend every sound his tenor can breathe.
It's important to note that this album is far removed from energy jazz or a skronk fest. Rather, it is one of those gems that truly reveals more of itself with each listen as these men mine the sonic possibilities of their instruments. What at first seems like a muddy mesh of noise reveals a melody being buried, extrapolated, and stretchedbut never broken. Never is this clearer than in "Waltz (penned by Davis) and the following "Waltz Coda (credited to the trio), which bears little resemblance to a waltz and is actually longer than the original composition. The former provides the melody, while the latter abuses that structure and sound in every way. Malaby is in full free/avant context here working in phrases that occasionally evolve into the protracted lines others might associate him with. And by the time "Glorious arrives, one is reminded where these flights take off from, and commonly return to.
Visit Tony Malaby and Eivind Opsvik on the web.
Personnel: Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Eivind Opsvik: upright bass; Jeff Davis: drums.