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Tony Malaby / Angelica Sanchez / Tom Rainey: Alive in Brooklyn

Phil DiPietro By

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A release full of surprises, all of which work! Despite the success of recent releases and concomitant ascent in notoriety for (husband and wife) pianist Angelica Sanchez and saxophonist Tony Malaby, we have what looks to be a self-released project here, arriving as it does in a cardboard sleeve, bearing the premier insignia of Sarama Records. In another guerilla tactic, the studio has been avoided in favor of the live date; here, at Barbe's, the hip new bastion of Brooklyn beatniks.

In a sound-enhancing move, it seems that every shred of audience noise, including any between-tune ovations, has been digitally removed from this recording. So have any other ear itants, making Barbe's and whatever environment in which this disc was edited, mixed and mastered, the de facto studio, with sound certainly surpassing that of some recent major label live dates. Tom Rainey's singular splattering sound palette benefits most from the sonic treatment. While not a studio drum sound, it's definitely not that usual, compressed, distant live recording variety—the kit sounds exactly like it does when you're in the club, making it the sound that imbues the date with its "alive"-ness.

Malaby is known as a Mr. Inside-Outside — rarely does a player considered such a superb technician in the traditional sense also display such gifts for freer forms. Like associate Tim Berne, his approach usually features open-ended improv within a loose blueprint of heads and arrangements. So it's something of a surprise again that here, we get material improvised on the fly.

The biggest surprise-Angelica Sanchez's depth and personality as an electric piano stylist, propelling this recording into the spine-tingling, compelling category. This element, combined with Malaby's and Rainey's association with Berne, obliges comparison to Hard Cell, an ensemble whose successes hinge on Craig Taborn's new-millennium Rhodes work. Sanchez's playing here is that good and that important to this trio's concept. She's every bit as off-kilterly thrilling as Taborn, and that's intended as a huge compliment. Using real-time sequences, dissonant and resonant counterpoint, and just enough reverb, she penetrates, infiltrates and levitates the proceedings by alternating and combining ferocious and feline instincts.

"Chimera" finds her using ostinato bass notes as an axis for Malaby to play off of, then sweeping up and down the board, with both occasionally soloing at the same time. Particularly rousing are her guttural bass blurts accompanying tingly, sprite-like upper register flurries. Dig her haunted-house dissonance with Rainey, then the adroit sequencing part over one of his clattering, chattering, now trademark percussion interludes. Her solo spot with the drummer is filigreed full of harmonic invention and ear-tugging phraseology. Malaby puts closure to the effort with zoological, overblowing ascension that literally brings the band off of the club floor with him, Sanchez seemingly splaying the keyboard apart beneath and swallowing him up. Finally, her bell-ringing to Malaby's Cantor on "Brujeria," is simply not-to-be-missed.

An important side of this musical partnership, documented in magnificent, modern fashion.

For more information, visit Tony Malaby and Angelica Sanchez on the web.


Track Listing: 1. Chimera (22:36), 2. Brujeria (19:05), 3. The Hat (11:04)

Personnel: Tony Malaby-saxophones,Angelica Sanchez-keyboards, Tom Rainey-drums

Title: Alive in Brooklyn | Year Released: 2004


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